The Battle of Brookline And The Infamous Ryder Cup
BROOKLINE is best remembered for some of the most unedifying scenes ever witnessed on a golf course.
During the 1999 Ryder Cup, Justin Leonard holed a massive putt on the 17th green in his singles match against Jose Maria Olazabal. It prompted an invasion of the green by players, wives and caddies, with Olazabal yet to putt.
The USA had begun the final day trailing Mark James’ European team 10-6 but staged a remarkable comeback.
James had given Andrew Coltart a wild card but didn’t play him until the final day. He did the same thing with Jarmo Sandelin and Jean Van de Velde.
The American team won 141⁄2 -131⁄2, The Europeans had required just four points on the final day to retain the cup.
The Americans rallied on the Sunday, winning the first six matches of the day to surge into the lead. Further wins by Steve Pate and Jim Furyk took them into a 14–12 lead.
The Americans recaptured the Ryder Cup when Leonard halved his match with Olazabal.
With the match all-square, Leonard holed a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. The scenes that greeted Leonard’s putt were disgraceful. Olazabal still had a 20-foot putt for a birdie of his own. Unsurprisingly he missed it. It meant that Leonard went to the 18th one up, assuring him of a half point and guaranteeing an American victory.
Before the match, Payne Stewart has said that the European team were only good enough to caddie for him and his 11 team-mates. It was a comment that gave Europe an added incentive.
The behaviour of both U.S. spectators and the U.S. team throughout the three days at Brookline attracted heavy criticism from both the American and European media.
U.S. spectators heckled and abused European players. Things were so bad that Colin Montgomerie’s father walked off the course because he couldn’t bear the abuse aimed at his son. And Stewart, who faced Monty in the singles, took the crowd to task over their treatment of the Scot before conceding their match.
Allegations were also made regarding cheating on the part of course marshals and European vice-captain Sam Torrance launched a vicious verbal attack on Tom Lehman, who led the invasion of the 17th green when Leonard holed his putt.
Veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke described the final day as "a date that will live in infamy”.
At the time, the American win was the largest final day come-from-behind victory in Ryder Cup history, but Europe achieved the same feat init Medinah in 2012.
It was also one of the final times that Stewart was seen in public. Less than a month later he would die in a plane crash.
Brookline was a defining moment in the history of the Ryder Cup. The 2001 match was cancelled after the terrorist atrocities on 9/11 and when the teams came together again at The Belfry in 2002 the spirit between the teams and fans was very different.
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