In the 91 years and 41 contests of the Ryder Cup, it has embodied all that’s best about our sacred game. If you think of golf’s most enduring images, a disproportionate percentage will be from the Ryder Cup. Here, we look at some of the Ryder Cup’s most thrilling moments.
The Concession at Birkdale 1969 – A Golden Bear’s act of sportsmanship
Tony Jacklin gave British golf a major boost by winning The Open Championship at Royal Lytham in 1969 and his superb form on Lancashire’s links continued in that year’s Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale.
During the tournament, the Englishman had dropped just half a point as the matches moved into the final set of singles.
Great Britain & Ireland held a 13-11 advantage, but their lead was eroded through the afternoon and it became increasingly apparent the contest would go to the wire.
Jacklin played Jack Nicklaus in the closing match. The pair had already faced off in the morning singles, with Jacklin a 4&3 winner.
This time, Jacklin holed a lengthy putt for eagle on the 17th to draw level. With the overall score at 15.5 each, the whole Cup rested on the last hole.
Both men found the green in two and Jacklin putted first, ending an agonising two feet short. The American raced his birdie effort past, before calmly holing for par.
Then, in an unprecedented sporting gesture, Nicklaus conceded Jacklin’s putt, resulting in the first tie in the Ryder Cup’s history.
The Belfry 1985 – Europe ends the drought
In 1985, Europe won the Ryder Cup outright for the first time. This was also the first time the USA had been defeated since Lindrick in 1957.
Incredibly, the core of the team which secured success at the Belfry in 1985 – Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros – were all born around the time of the USA’s 1957 loss.
This victory provided a clear sign that the Europeans had developed into viable opponents.
The European side, captained by Tony Jacklin, led by two points going into the final day and they pressed on through Sunday.
It fell to Scotsman Sam Torrance to sink the winning putt, beating Andy North on the 18th green.
He lofted his arms straight into the air in one of the most memorable celebrations in Cup history – a breakthrough moment for European golf.
The War on the Shore, Kiawah Island 1991 – Langer’s agonising miss
The Ryder Cup delivers agony and ecstasy for players and fans alike. Unfortunately, Bernhard Langer and Europe had to face the former at Kiawah Island in 1991.
In the wake of the Gulf War, the US treated the event as a military mission, aptly entitled “The War on the Shore”.
Corey Pavin caused controversy by sporting a Desert Storm cap in support of U.S troops and George Bush even appeared on a video message cheering on the home players.The match was played in fairly hostile conditions for the European side, but they battled hard and it came down to the very last singles match between Bernhard Langer and Hale Irwin.
The German had fought back on the run for home and found himself with a five-foot putt on the final green that would retain the Ryder Cup for Europe.
It was a sloping, side-hiller that slid just past the edge of the hole. The German looked to the sky and sank to his knees in despair. The USA won the Cup and their celebrations began.
The Battle of Brookline 1999 – Justin Leonard ‘Jumps Around’
The partisan crowds in Massachusetts were fervent in their support and their exuberance (which occasionally spilled over into gamesmanship) played a key part in securing the 14.5-13.5 victory for the USA.
Ben Crenshaw’s team was uncontrollable as Justin Leonard holed from 45 feet against Jose Maria Olazabal on the 17th green in the singles to make birdie and, in all likelihood, win the Ryder Cup.
Leaping and frolicking all over the Spaniard’s line, the Americans were widely criticised for their boisterousness because Olly could still have holed his putt and won the last to prevent an American victory.
But in the furore, the Spaniard missed, and the Americans went wild again.
Like it or not, it was an incredible and iconic Ryder Cup moment and it did make the Europeans hungry for revenge. They got it with a superb victory at the Belfry three years later.
The Miracle at Medinah 2012 – Kaymer completes the “impossible comeback”
Last but not least is undoubtedly one of the Ryder Cup’s most thrilling moments.
Europe looked down and out on the Saturday at Medinah in Illinois. They were 10-4 down with two fourball matches on the course and 12 singles left on the Sunday.
Ian Poulter kept European hopes alive with five straight birdies on the last five holes of his fourball match with Rory McIlroy to gain a vital point but, with one day left, the home side led by 10-6.
On the Sunday though, Europe came alive. Drawing on the emotional words of their captain Jose Maria Olazabal and in memory of his great friend Seve who had died the year before, they saw light at the end of the tunnel and began haring towards it.
The early matches went Europe’s way and blue flooded the board. The comeback was complete when Martin Kaymer holed a testing six-foot putt to beat Steve Stricker on the 18th green.
Captain Olazabal looked to the sky, pointed to the image of Seve on his jacket and the tears began to flow.
Also to be noted from Medinah was the generous spirit of the losing team and their captain Davis Love III in particular. He must have been so incredibly disappointed, but he was eloquent in his thanks, praise for his team and congratulations for the winning side.
Love displayed the sort of sportsmanship that golf is famed for and we should all strive to emulate. That is what the Ryder Cup is all about.