The Ryder Cup returns this this weekend, and to celebrate I’ve compiled my top five moments from golf’s most unique tournament.
Whether you’re a fan of golf or not, the Ryder Cup is an event difficult not to enjoy. The continental tournament could not be more different than a major or regular tour event. Players either qualify, or are picked by their relative captains to make up a team of twelve to represent their continent (USA or Europe) and play an array of different formats throughout the tournament in order to win overall points.
Unlike the slow paced and quiet vibe found in many tour events, the Ryder Cup cultivates an atmosphere more comparable to one of a football or rugby match. Host courses are chosen on the basis of withstanding huge amounts of spectators and immense stands, where fans can cheer on their own players while also taunting their opponents.
This years European Ryder Cup team will be captained by the legendary four time winner Padraic Harrington, and vice-captained by the great Graeme McDowell, Robert Karlsson, Luke Donald, and Martin Kaymer. Although the official European team hasn’t been announced yet, it will likely include Irish Olympic duo Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.
To add to the excitement of the next Ryder Cup coming in September from Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, I’ve put together my five favourite Ryder Cup moments!
#5 – 1991 Ryder Cup (The War on the Shore) from Kiawah Island: Langer’s missed putt hands USA the win.
The European team which competed in the 1991 Ryder Cup was made up of some of the most famous names in golf at the time. Although images from this event may look like something you’d find in your parents photo album, players like Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer were rockstars in the world of golf.
The tournament itself was swarmed with controversy, even today European players and coaches still point fingers at American opponents for unsportsmanlike actions, unfair off-course tactics and even plain old fashioned cheating.
However like all great tournaments, the winner was to be decided by one 5-foot putt. Langer was matched against Hale Irwin in the final match of the Sunday singles and despite the Europeans being favourites, they struggled to gather a healthy lead against the Americans.
The players traded strokes back and fourth until Langer and the Europeans found themselves one down with one hole to play. Chaos ensued as Langer’s putt to seal the tournament for Europe, cruises past the hole.
#4 – 2006 Ryder Cup from The K Club: Darren Clarke goes unbeaten.
Six weeks after the passing of his wife Heather, Darren Clarke surprised the world of golf by assuming his place in Europe’s 2006 Ryder Cup team.
The US team was packed with big names boasting an array of major wins, yet the Europeans had the home advantage. The host course chosen was the K Club in County Kildare, the first time a Ryder Cup venue was chosen in Ireland.
Clarke was picked to play in three of the tournaments matches, he fended off the efforts of Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to win three points for team Europe and go unbeaten for the tournament.
To this day, The Ian Woosnam led European team’s nine point win margin remains one of the most dominant performances in Ryder Cup history, and Darren Clarke deserves a large share of the credit.
#3 – 1983 Ryder Cup from Palm Beach Gardens: Ballesteros halves 18 thanks to a 254 yard shot.
If you are a golf fan, you know how clutch Seve Ballesteros was. If you’re not a golf fan per se, then I feel bad for you, because Seve’s legacy seems to lie beneath the surface, outshone by his era’s contemporaries such as Jack Nicklaus, then dwarfed by the accomplishments of Tiger Woods and the modern era.
Which is a shame, because the mark Seve Ballesteros left on the game of golf was just as significant as Nicklaus or Tiger. The Spaniard’s playing style was flamboyant and confident, making him the perfect Ryder Cup player.
No moment sums this up better than his shenanigans in the 1983 Ryder Cup, more specifically on the 18th hole in his singles match against Fuzzy Zoeller.
Seve was three up with five holes to play but his lead slipped away by the time the two players stood on the 18th tee box. Now all square, Seve had to win the hole in order to take a point back to his European teammates.
Seve’s tee shot stumbled into a deep rough, leaving him no option but to hack it into fairway bunker. Now with a whopping 245 yards to the hole on a green that was bordered by water, Seve’s chances of stealing a point for the europeans were beginning to fade entirely.
Yet, Seve would proceed to hit a shot that would cement him in golfing folklore forever. Seve used his three-wood to pick the ball cleanly from the sand, slicing it nearly 50 yards, just short of the dance floor.
Already leaving everyone who witnessed his heroics speechless, Seve Chipped and putted for par and to halve the hole.
Unfortunately there is no footage of this infamous 3-wood from the bunker shot, but there are a number of eye witness accounts and a small number of still images as seen above.
Yet one man who did see the shot is the legendary Jack Nicklaus, remembering the shot to be “The greatest I ever saw”.
#2 – 2012 Ryder Cup from Medinah: Ian Poulter birdies the final five holes to crumble USA’s 2-4 lead
I am not the biggest Ian Poulter fan, but it’s very hard to argue against the level of performances he’s displayed in essentially every Ryder Cup he’s ever participated in. From a Ryder Cup and team golf point of view, the Englishman is perhaps one of the best to ever do it.
No example of Poulter’s heroics are better than his birdie streak in the third round of the 2012 Ryder Cup. The European team were in trouble during the Saturday four-ball as Poulter and his playing partner Rory McIlroy set out to wrestle points back from their American opponents Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
Poulter put in a gigantic shift for team Europe throughout the round with five consecutive birdies over the last five holes, resulting in Poulter single handedly dragging the European team back into contention as the tournament entered its final day.
Poulter’s performance inspired the Europeans to overcome a four point deficit throughout the tournament concluding Sunday singles, snatching back-to-back Ryder Cup’s for the Europeans.
#1 – 2016 Ryder Cup from Hazeltine National: Rory McIlroy vs Patrick Reed
The Ryder Cup has hosted some of golf’s most gripping and intense matches ever recorded and it will hopefully continue to do so for a very long time, however there is a reason why I picked this one match above all else.
Whenever I encounter someone who tries to argue that golf is boring, or that it doesn’t have the same level of emotion or passion as other sports, I refer them to this very Ryder Cup match to prove them wrong.
Rory McIlroy’s match against Patrick Reed kicked off the Sunday singles at the 2016 Ryder Cup from Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. McIlroy and Reed tee’d in front of a rowdy American crowd, thus setting the atmosphere for one of the most dramatic matchers in Ryder Cup history.
The two players were arguably the longest hitters within their respective teams, which resulted in some of the most aggressive golf shots that I personally have ever seen.
The standard of golf played within the match was phenomenal, although McIlroy made a run with three consecutive birdies he was unable to win any of those holes due to Reed either match his birdie for a half, or draining an eagle put to maintain his narrow lead.
To make their performances even more impressive, the pressure both players played under was immense. McIlroy had the bravery to gloat towards the Minnesota crowd after he sank a lengthy birdie putt, a putt he made under the relentless booing from the spectators wearing red, white and blue.
Reed’s birdie on 18 claimed the match for USA and shattered McIlroy’s unbeaten record in the Sunday singles. However regardless of the upset the USA handed Europe that year, the golfing world was gifted one of the most gripping Ryder Cup matches ever witnessed.