For all of the individual endeavour that golf encourages, it is perhaps the Ryder Cup that captures the imagination of the public more than any other event.
The transatlantic contest comes around every other year, and almost without fail, produces a thrilling experience.
For all the excitement in the here and now, the Ryder Cup can also boast an unparalleled back-catalogue of competitions in years past.
Here are our picks of the most memorable Ryder Cup moments in history:
1969: Jack Nicklaus v Tony Jacklin
Royal Birkdale was the scene, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin the belligerents. It was a fierce week across the board, with 18 of the 32 matches decided on the 18th green. Tied at 15-and-a-half each, and the American Nicklaus leading by one hole on the 17th, Jacklin made a 35-foot eagle putt to level the scores ahead of the final hole. However, with the Americans being the reigning champions, all they needed was a tie in the overall scores to take home the trophy. Nicklaus didn’t give Jacklin a chance in front of 8,000 people to propel Great Britain into the lead. An American win, but one of the finest golfing matches of all time.
1985: Europe's first win
In 1979, the competition expanded to include golfers from the continent on the newly called ‘Team Europe’. Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and Jose Rivero were amongst the newly admitted competitors when Europe captured their first win in 1985. Seve and Sam Torrance took the fight to the Americans, ambitiously driving the green at the 10th. Torrance sunk a birdie putt on 18 and burst into tears. The victory snapped a 28-year American winning streak, which I think we can all agree is just fantastic.
1989: Tension rises between Ballesteros and Azinger
The 1989 edition of the Ryder Cup saw emotions running high. Having lost the previous two competitions, the Americans were out for revenge. In a singles match between Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger, the American protested his opponent’s bid to change a scuffed ball, resulting in a match official ultimately siding with Azinger. Slighted, Seve later threw up a fuss over an Azinger drop on the 18th.
1991: Ballesteros v Azinger II and Langer nail-biter
With the bad blood clearly still present, Ballesteros and Azinger faced each other as part of a foursomes match. A rules violation with the balls used by the American was flagged up by Seve, with Azinger protesting his innocence and integrity. A war of words between Ballesteros and Azinger inevitably followed, as did one of the best foursomes matches ever with Seve and compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal eventually winning 2 & 1. Ballesteros was quoted as saying afterwards “The American team has 11 nice guys. And Paul Azinger”. The match had a sweat-inducing finish as well. In the singles, Colin Montgomerie won the last four holes of his match with Mark Calcavecchia to halve the contest, from a position of near-certain defeat. The final singles match between Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer came down to the 18th hole, with the Europeans needing to win the hole if they wanted to hoist the cup. With both players struggling, Langer was staring down a six-foot par putt as Irwin looked at an 18-inch effort. Amazingly, Langer conceded Irwin’s putt, meaning he’d have to sink his to win the trophy. He missed.
1995: A week of chaos, sealed with a moment of touching sportsmanship
Howard Clark and Constantino Rocca both hit holes-in-one, captain’s pick Nick Faldo won his singles match after being down on the 16th, and European captain Bernard Gallacher was comforted by his opposite number Lanny Wadkins after breaking down in tears following a dramatic European 14-and-a-half to 13-and-a-half victory. The best of the Ryder Cup was on display in New York.
1999: The American public ruin it for everyone
The American comeback at Brookline in 1999 saw the hosts outscore Europe 8-and-a-half to 3-and-a-half in the singles matches to cap off a remarkable comeback. Trailing 10-6 on Sunday morning, the turning point came on the 17th green. With Olazabal and Justin Leonard all-square, the American hit a 45-foot wonder-putt to win the hole, sparking wild celebration from the gallery and other team members. The behaviour of the American public all week was condemned by members of both teams, and was indicative of the increasing nationalism of the event.
2002: Europe strike back at the Belfry
Postponed one year after the September 11 attacks, the 2002 contest saw Europe reclaim the trophy. A monumental Sunday effort from the hosts saw Europe break a Saturday tie to emerge victorious. Huge wins for Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington were sealed by Paul McGinley’s half-point against Phil Mickelson, and a team of American superstars were defeated.
2004: Langer delivers a masterclass in Michigan
Now captain, Bernhard Langer dominated American captain Hal Sutton all week in 2004. The first day saw the US card just 1-and-a-half, and it didn’t get any better for the home side. Winning the singles matches 7-and-a-half to 4-and-a-half, the tourists would have been singing all the way home in honour of Langer’s strategic pairings.
2012: Miracle at Medinah
Overturning a 10-6 deficit on the final day, the Miracle at the Medinah is made immeasurably better because it happened in the United States. The first five singles matches went for Europe, and Martin Kaymer’s nerves of steel were enough to see off a late challenge from Steve Stricker. The scenes of European jubilation in Minnesota were tremendous, as the visitors won their second consecutive competition.
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