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10 Best Ryder Cup Shots

By: Nick Bonfield | Wed 26 Sep 2012 | Comments

One of the greatest events in sport, The Ryder Cup, is just around the corner. The 39th match at Chicago’s Medinah Country Club is expected to be one of the all-time greats, with both teams so evenly matched and every player ranked in the top 35 in the Official World Golf Ranking. With that in mind, it seems an opportune time to look back over some of the best shots in the event’s esteemed history. Rose-tinted spectacles at the ready...

10. Eamon Darcy, Muirfield Village, 1987

Entering the singles at Muirfield village in 1987, Irishman Eamon Darcy hadn’t recorded a single point in nine attempts. Things looked promising in his singles match against Ben Crenshaw after the American broke his putter on the sixth green. Despite being forced to putt with a combination of 3-iron and sand wedge, Crenshaw hung on, and made it to the 18th hole all square. He holed a five-footer on the 18th green, leaving his European rival with a putt of the same length to win his first even Ryder Cup point. Darcy’s slippery left-to-right putt just caught enough of the right hole, earning him a pat on the back from Jack Nicklaus. He had won his first point and contributed to a first European victory on American soil.

9. Seve Ballesteros, The Belfry, 1985

No Ryder Cup list would be complete without a mention of the late, great Seve Ballesteros. At The Belfry in 1985, he stood on the tee of the short par-4 10th on Saturday and proceeded to hit his drive over the tall trees flanking the green and bring it down softly on the putting surface. A magical shot from a magical golfer.

8. Singles, The Belfry, 2002

Before the Sunday singles at the Belfry in 2002, proceedings were tied at eight points apiece. Europe made a great start, but were pegged back after Scott Verplank beat Lee Westwood 2&1. Niclas Fasth looked like he would be the one to record the winning point, but was thwarted by a sensational bunker shot from Paul Azinger, who holed out for birdie and a half from the side of 18. Moments later, Europe took a collective intake of breath as Paul McGinley presided over his five-foot putt, and let out an audible cheer after the Irishman secured an all important half and jumped into the lake.

7. Howard Clark, Oak Hill, 1995

The US led by two points going into the singles in 1995 at Oak Hill, and it was looking as if Bernard Gallacher - captain for the ‘War on the Shore’ at Kiawah Island in 1991 and two years later at The Belfry - would lose his third successive Ryder Cup. Howard Clark, playing against Peter Jacobson, had other ideas, holing out from 186 yards on the par 3 11th. The roar was heard around the course, and is widely seen as the catalyst for Europe’s resurgence and ultimate victory. 

6. Justin Leonard, Brookline, 1999

At Brookline in 1999, the US were four points behind heading into the singles, knowing they needed a monumental effort to have any hope of avoiding a third consecutive loss. A monumental effort is what they produced. They won the first six matches of the day, but standing on the 17th tee, Justin Leonard was one down in his match against Jose Maria Olazabal. Both players found the green in regulation, but Leonard holed a 55-foot putt across the length of the green, sparking scenes of utter jubilation. The US players running over Olazabal’s line was one of the more forgettable moments in Ryder Cup history, but shouldn’t detract from the quality of the putt. The US won 14.5 - 13.5, with Leonard’s half ensuring victory.

5. Darren Clarke, The K-Club, 2006

Darren Clark was chosen as a captain’s pick for the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K-Club despite losing his wife, Heather, to cancer just five weeks previously. He worked tirelessly with Ewan Murray to prepare himself and duly delivered, winning three points from three. In the singles, he was three up after 13 before holing a monster chip across the 12th green to set up a subsequent victory. No one will forget the sight of Clarke bursting into tears on the 16th green, nor the sight of him downing a pint of Guinness on the balcony of the clubhouse.

4. Sam Torrance, The Belfry, 1985

Sam Torrance was all square in his singles match with American Andy North at the Belfry in 1985. North found water off the tee and Torrance seized the moment. He hit a lovely drive and followed it with a fine approach to 18 feet. He didn’t need to hole the putt, but he did so. The home crowd erupted as the Scotsman lifted both arms in the air, looked to the sky and started crying. Europe had ended 28 years of American domination in the Ryder Cup.

3. Graeme McDowell, Celtic Manor, 2010

When Colin Montgomerie chose Graeme McDowell to bring up the rear in the 2010 singles, no one batted an eyelid, for McDowell has the stomach and constitution for a fight. As it turned out, the 2010 Ryder Cup hinged on his match against Hunter Mahan, with scores tied at 13.5/13.5 as the final match headed to the tough 16th. McDowell was one up and hit his approach to 15 feet, with Mahan already having secured par. You sensed it might happen, but no one could have anticipated the scenes after he duly holed to take the match to dormi two. The match will predominantly be remembered for Mahan’s flunked chip on 17, but it was McDowell’s putt on 16 that secured the 2010 Ryder Cup.

2. 1989 - Christy O’Connor Jnr, The Belfry, 1989

In 1989 at The Belfry, Christy O’Connor Jnr was all square with Fred Couples after 10 holes, a player who was ranked much higher in the world rankings. Couples had nailed a drive and only had a nine-iron left to the green, but O’Connor was 240 yards away. His two-iron approach, however, landed on the green and chased up to no more than four feet. Couples half shanked his approach and O’Connor was carried onto the green amid cacophonous cheering. His two-iron was subsequently auctioned and raised £50,000 for a hospital near O’Connor’s home in Galw

1. Jack Nicklaus, Royal Birkdale, 1969

Granted, it wasn’t a shot, but for wonderful sportsmanship and playing the game in the spirit it was intended, Jack Nicklaus’s actions in 1969 deserve a mention. Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin were embroiled in a close singles match at Royal Birkdale in 1969. Coming down the 18th the match was all square, and Nicklaus holed his four-foot putt, leaving Jacklin with three feet for the half. The 18-time major champion bent down, picked up the Englishman’s marker and said: “I know you would not have missed that, but, in these circumstances, I did not want to give you the opportunity.”



The Ryder Cup is unlike any other tournament in golf and the atmosphere is something that every golf fan should experience. The experts at Golfbreaks.com can help with all aspects of your Ryder Cup experience, from accommodation and ticket packages to hospitality and travel and playing some of the fantastic nearby courses.

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