Golf’s greatest spectacle, the Ryder Cup, gets under way in France this weekend, with the tournament just the second to be held in Continental Europe.
The 42nd Ryder Cup pits defending champions the United States as favourites following their 17-11 triumph in Hazeltine two years ago, especially with 11 of the world’s top 20 golfers in their ranks and the return to form of Tiger Woods – arguably the greatest golfer ever.
Just six of Thomas Bjorn’s squad by comparison are in the top 20, with the Dane selecting five Ryder Cup rookies.
But while they may be favourites to retain the title from September 28–30 on the Albatros Course of Le Golf National, the United States have lost the last five matches in Europe, last winning there in 1993.
Ahead of what should be a thrilling battle, we take a look back at our top 10 Ryder Cup moments.
1) THE MIRACLE OF MEDINAH – CHICAGO, 2012
Ian Poulter was at his fist-pumping best to help inspire a storming comeback for Europe. At one stage 10-4 down, the much fancied European team were reeling from a barrage of brilliant American putting.
They were inspired to one of the greatest sporting comebacks by Poulter’s five closing birdies to snatch a vital point in the closing Saturday afternoon fourballs.
Revitalised Europe were dominant on the Sunday, taking 8.5 points from the 12 singles matches to retain the Ryder Cup.
An unbelievably tense victory was secured by German Martin Kaymer’s nerveless six footer on the 18th green to beat Steve Stricker.
2) ONE PUTT TO RULE THEM ALL – KIAWAH ISLAND, 1991
If you could have chosen someone to hole a tricky six footer to retain the Ryder Cup, few would have chosen anyone other than ice cool German Bernhard Langer.
The most tense finish in the match’s history came down to this one putt. Langer’s putt slipped by the hole – cue American hollering and European agony. Langer showed his mental resilience by winning the US Masters the following Spring.
3) EUROPEAN INVASION – MUIRFIELD VILLAGE, 1987
A strong American team led by captain Jack Nicklaus on a course he had personally designed was meant to exact revenge on the upstart Europeans who had inflicted the first American defeat since 1957 two years earlier.
A vibrant European team, including the inspirational Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabel had other ideas. Who can forget Olazabel’s dance on the final green as the Europeans wrapped up a 15-13 victory?
Eamonn Darcy had no wins from his previous nine matches as he squared up to the normally cool and collected Ben Crenshaw. On the 6th green of their singles clash, Crenshaw’s temper snapped – as did his putter.
The American was forced to use a three-iron in its place to complete the round, allowing Darcy the opportunity to record his long-awaited first victory at the 10th attempt. His winning putt on the 18th green was short and sweet and Europe went on to record a first ever win on US soil.
4) THE BATTLE OF BROOKLINE – BROOKLINE, 1999
Maybe the most controversial moment in the match’s history. America had fought back from 10-6 and all eyes were on Justin Leonard’s crucial match with Olazabal, which was all square on the 17th green.
Leonard then holed a monster putt and – despite Olazabal still having his own 25-footer for the half – the US team and their wives invaded the green. The Spaniard missed his putt and the US win was greeted by euphoria and anger.
5) NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE – K CLUB, 2006
Many questioned the wisdom of Darren Clarke playing weeks after he had lost his wife, Heather, to cancer. He accepted a wildcard invitation to play from captain Ian Woosnam to honour Heather’s wishes and went on to produce a stunning display in the face of adversity.
After an emotional reception on the first tee, Clarke and Lee Westwood won their Friday morning four-ball and repeated the feat on Saturday morning. In Sunday’s singles Clarke blew Zach Johnson away, winning 3&2 to claim maximum points over the three days.
After another crushing 18.5-9.5 win for Europe, Clarke said: “When Woosie dedicated the Ryder Cup to Heather, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. Heather had wanted me to play and I’d done my bit.”
6) THE GREATEST SHOT – PALM BEACH GARDENS, 1983
Seve Ballesteros was evolving into one of the great Ryder Cup competitors but at Palm Beach it looked as if he had blown the chance of sharing a point with Fuzzy Zoeller. With his ball nestled in a fairway bunker 245 yards from the 18th green, the unconventional Ballesteros reached for his three-wood.
He blasted the ball just over the lip of the bunker while managing to avoid the water hazard to the side of the green and eventually made par to halve the hole. US captain Jack Nicklaus said it was “the greatest shot I ever saw” and we’ll have to take his word for it as the moment was somehow missed by the TV coverage on the day.
7) SAM’S THE MAN – THE BELFRY, 1985
A first Ryder Cup victory at the fourth attempt for Europe and a first defeat for the US since 1957. Sam Torrance enjoyed his Sunday stroll in the singles, knowing he could afford to take three putts at the 18th to beat reigning US Open champion Andy North and win the trophy.
The popular Scot finished in style, landing his first putt for a birdie then summoning the strength to carry captain Tony Jacklin on his shoulders as Europe celebrated a landmark victory.
8) THE UNTOUCHABLES – WALTON HEATH, 1981
There is little debate which is the best team to have played in the Ryder Cup – Dave Marr’s “Untouchables” – with the likes of Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Floyd, Miller and Kite in their prime.
Amazingly behind after day one, this American team of stars were simply irresistible over the weekend and destroyed the Europeans (including youngsters Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer) 18.5-9.5.
9) MONTY MAGIC – THE BELFRY, 2002
If USA 1981 were the finest team to grace the Ryder Cup, then Colin Montgomerie’s performance in the 2002 Ryder Cup must be one of the greatest individual displays.
Monty played five matches at The Belfry and not once did he lose. But more than that, in none of those games – three in tandem with Bernhard Langer, one with Padraig Harrington – was he even a hole down at any point. Two years later Monty sunk the winning putt to secure Ryder Cup immortality.
10) THE CONCESSION – BIRKDALE, 1969
Way back in the early days of the Ryder Cup, the tournament had become something of an American procession, so something had to be done. The Great Britain & Ireland team, led by newly crowned US Open champion Tony Jacklin, entered the last hole of the final match all square.
Jacklin faced a six foot putt to halve the match and gain an honourable draw for the team. As Jacklin sized up his putt, Nicklaus held out has hand, conceding the putt in one of the great sporting gestures.
Know more about Sport360 Application