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Are These The Most Shocking Ryder Cup Moments

By: | Fri 15 Sep 2023

THE Ryder Cup is golf’s greatest team competition. Every European and American golfer who has ever played in the match will tell you that representing their country or continent is the greatest honour the game can bestow.

Over the years we have seen many astonishing shots - miracle recoveries from bunkers, unlikely holed approaches, even the odd hole in one. We have witnessed remarkable fightbacks that have had us on the edge of our seats.

But we have also seen some pretty unedifying incidents and some truly dreadful shots, proving that even the best golfers in the world are human, just like the rest of us. And that they also feel the pressure in the heat of battle.

Here we look at some shocking moments from the Ryder Cup’s storied history.

Craig Stadler, The Belfry, 1985

This was a real shocker. Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer were playing Craig Stadler and Curtis Strange in the Saturday morning fourballs. The Americans had led for most of the round and were still one up when they came to the 18th. The Europeans parred the hole. Stadler had a tiddler for a par of his own that would have given the Americans a winning point. He looked towards Langer and Lyle, expecting the putt to be conceded. But they stood back and waited for him to hole the putt. Stadler was not happy - and duly missed. He then went out in the afternoon foursomes with Hal Sutton and, with steam still coming out of his ears, was on the wrong end of a 5&4 hiding.

Ben Crenshaw, Muirfield Village, 1987

They called him Gentle Ben but Crenshaw was no such thing. He had a short fuse and when it was lit you did not want to be in the vicinity. His moment of Ryder Cup madness came in a singles match against Eamonn Darcy. At the sixth hole Crenshaw missed a short putt and reacted by snapping the shaft of his putter. For the rest of the round he putted with his sand wedge and one iron. Darcy went three up and although the American battled back, the Irishman eventually won on the 18th green. To rub salt into Crenshaw’s wounds, Europe recorded their first ever win on American soil.

Fred Couples, The Belfry, 1989

Can a golfer's wondrous play affect his or her opponent. You bet it can. Christy O’Connor Jr faced Couples in the singles and came to the final hole with everything still on the line. Couples hit his drive miles past O’Connor. He had a straightforward nine iron left. O’Connor stood over his second shot with a two iron in his hands and played the shot of his life. The ball finished no more than four feet from the hole. Shockingly, Couples then missed one of the biggest greens in golf with his nine iron and ended up conceding the hole and the match to the Irishman as Europe retained the trophy.

Mark Calcavecchia, Kiawah Island, 1991

Calcavecchia was four up with four to play in his singles match against Colin Montgomerie. Monty fought back to win the 15th and 16th holes. They came to the 17th, a par three. Monty dumped his tee shot in the water, apparently handing the match to his American opponent. Calcavecchia had other ideas, shanking the ball into the water with what was one of the worst shots ever witnessed at this level. To make matters worse, he even missed a two-foot putt. He lost the hole, and the 18th, and admitted afterwards that he nearly suffered a mental breakdown as a result. Instead of joining the party as his team celebrated a famous win, he walked down to the beach, sank to his knees on the sand and cried his eyes out.

Bernhard Langer, Kiawah Island, 1991

The entire 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island couldn’t have been scripted any better, but the ending was unbelievable. With a huge crowd around the final green and down the fairway at the Ocean Course, Bernhard Langer needed to make a four-foot par putt to beat Hale Irwin and retain the Cup for the Europe. Even back then, the German was afflicted by the dreaded yips. But he found a way to play. However, he was probably the last man you would want to be facing a crucial putt. And, of course, he missed it. The American crowd went wild while Langer let out an audible cry of anguish. And fair play to Langer - in his next competitive outing he went out and won, which tells you everything you need to know about his mental strength.

Curtis Strange, Oak Hill, 1995 

Strange was a two-time US Open champion and multiple winner on the PGA Tour so he certainly knew how to cope with pressure. But in his singles match against Nick Faldo at Oak Hill in 1995 he choked in the most spectacular fashion. Strange was one up and in the middle of the 16th fairway, with Faldo in the trees. Strange hit one of the worst six-iron shots of his professional career. It went way right. And he proceeded to lose the 16th, 17th and 18th, handing the game to Faldo and the Ryder Cup to Europe.

Hunter Mahan, Celtic Manor, 2010

Mahan is one of golf’s most thoroughly likeable players, hugely popular among his peers and his teammates. Or at least he was until the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Now it has to be said that chipping has never been Mahan’s strong suit, especially under pressure. And the pressure was never greater than in his crucial singles match against Graeme McDowell, upon which the fate of the event hung. McDowell got himself two up with two to play when he holed a crucial putt at the 16th. They came to the 17th and, with everything on the line, Mahan chunked the most straightforward of chips to hand the match - and the trophy - to McDowell. He was inconsolable.

Lee Westwood, Hazeltine, 2016

The Americans were still smarting after suffering a humiliating thrashing at Gleneagles two years earlier. Davis Love III was named as American captain and made it clear he wanted no repeat. What he couldn’t have expected was that he would get some help from the Europeans. Lee Westwood was playing in his 10th Ryder Cup. He was partnered with Danny Willett in a fourball match against JB Holmes and Ryan Moore. They came to the 18th all square and Westwood was left with a two-footer to halve the hole and the match. It was a formality. Except that it wasn’t. He missed it. And the USA went on to regain the trophy.

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