The 43rd Ryder Cup swings into action at the Whistling Straits on Friday with Europe looking to extend their winning streak over the US to second straight tournaments. Twenty-four of the world’s greatest golfers will slug it out over three days of match play competition in Haven, Wisconsin. To get you in the mood, here is our course guide recalling the 10 most memorable moments in Ryder Cup history.
Royal Birkdale, 1969 – The Concession
A sporting gesture on the final hole of the final match was a fitting end to the first ever tied Ryder Cup. With the team scores level at 15 ½ points each, there was just one singles match left in play, between Jack Nicklaus and Britain’s Open champion Tony Jacklin. Nicklaus holed a 5ft putt on the 18th green ensuring he would at least halve the match and retain the trophy for the holders US. Rather than make Jacklin play out his short putt too, Nicklaus picked up his opponent’s marker and extended his hand to offer a share of the point. Nicklaus said after: “I didn’t think it was in the spirit of the game to make Jacklin have a chance to miss a two-footer to lose the match in front of his fans.”
Palm Beach Gardens, 1983 – The Greatest Shot
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.
Kiawah Island, 1991 – Six Feet Under
A feisty three days at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island was eventually decided by the outcome of a short-range putt from Bernhard Langer. The German knew that his sinkable effort from six feet on the 18th green could win him the game against Hale Irwin and more importantly force a 14-14 tie that would keep the Ryder Cup in Europe’s grasp. Like Germany’s footballers who never seem to miss penalties, Langer was known for his excellent short game. After what seemed like an age, his gentle effort lipped the hole and moved away from the target, handing the US its first win for eight years.
The Belfry, 1993 – Fire And Ice
In the US corner was Paul Azinger, a passionate competitor who could tear up a course. In his way representing Europe was Nick Faldo, a flawless technician with ice in his veins. There was barely anything between the two in their Sunday showdown until Faldo stood with arms aloft at the 14th tee after landing a hole in one, which put him one up. But Azinger reined in Europe’s star with birdies at the 15th and 18th to halve the match. The US went on to retain the Ryder Cup 15-13 and these two were destined to face off again 15 years later as captains at Valhalla.
Oak Hill, 1995 – Fearless Faldo
The US held a two-point lead going into Sunday’s singles and looked on course for a third successive win with Nick Faldo one down against Curtis Strange with two to play. The occasion got to Strange who bogeyed 17 and 18 allowing Faldo to turn the game on its head. The battling Brit holed out from five feet on the 18th to claim the point. “It was the best scrambling par I ever made,” said Faldo. Irish rookie Philip Walton then beat Jay Haas by one hole to guide Europe home 14½-13½.
Valderrama, 1997 – Monty On The March
The first Ryder Cup to be played in continental Europe was hugely one-sided but somehow went down to the final match. Under the guidance of sassy Spanish captain Seve Ballesteros, Europe began the 12 Sunday singles matches with a massive five-point lead. But the Americans rallied to chisel out eight points from the 12 available, just falling short of an incredible comeback. Bernhard Langer’s win over Brad Faxon had ensured Europe couldn’t be overtaken and it was left to his foursomes partner Colin Montgomerie to win the Ryder Cup outright for Europe. Monty halved his singles match with Scott Hoch, securing a 14½-13½ victory and making him Europe’s top scorer in Valderrama with 3½ points.
Brookline, 1999 – Justin Time
As Justin Leonard stood 45ft from the hole on the 17th green at Brookline, he knew that halving his match with Jose Maria Olazabal would see the US regain the Ryder Cup. It had seemed an impossible task earlier in the day as the US began the Sunday singles trailing 10-6 and Leonard himself had been four holes down with seven to play. With his match now all square, the American unleashed a fearless putt that roared uphill before smacking into the hole for a birdie. That prompted premature celebrations by some US players, caddies and supporters who invaded the playing area even though Olazabal still had the chance to take the game to the 18th if he could sink his own putt. It was an ugly conclusion to what became tagged the Battle of Brookline. A US victory was confirmed when an understandably rattled Olazabal failed to hole out from 25 yards.
Valhalla, 2008 – Pumped Up Poulter
Ian Poulter made his Ryder Cup debut under a cloud after being a wildcard pick by Europe captain Nick Faldo ahead of the likes of 2006 hero Darren Clarke. By the time the US wrapped up a five-point victory on the Sunday afternoon, Poulter had scored four individual points, more than any other player from both sides. He had also made a big impression on the greens with the way he went about gathering those points, pumped up, full of passion, fists clenched, eyes bulging. Poulter had laid down his Ryder Cup marker.
Medinah, 2012 – Miracle At Medinah
Ian Poulter was at his fist-pumping best to help inspire a storming comeback. With two of Saturday afternoon’s four-balls completed, Europe trailed 10-4. In the final game of the day, Poulter and partner Rory McIlroy had looked out for the count, sitting two holes down to Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson with six to play. But Poulter entered his personal Ryder Cup zone to birdie each of the last five holes, concluding a stunning solo performance with a match winning 10ft putt at the 18th. “We have a pulse,” he announced defiantly. Revitalised Europe were dominant on the Sunday, taking 8½ points from the 12 singles matches to retain the Ryder Cup.
Gleneagles, 2014 – Glory In The Glen
For the die-hard Ryder Cup enthusiasts who insist that the US are still the dominant force, the evidence weighs heavily against them. Europe secured a relatively comfortable five-point victory in the rolling hills of Gleneagles for a third straight win against the Americans and an eighth triumph from the past ten tournaments. There was also a new name for the history books in 38-year-old Welsh rookie Jamie Donaldson. He secured Europe’s win, bombing out Keegan Bradley 4 & 3 after a stunning wedge shot approaching the 15th green which settled just a few feet from the hole. The US conceded and Donaldson, who had toiled for years to make the Ryder Cup cut, had the final word: “There’s nothing else like it in golf,” he said. “It’s just a total one-off. It’s just a huge, huge thing, and it’s just been amazing to be a part of it.”