The Ryder Cup has had many great moments over the years and many people have made lists of their favourites. Common to all of these lists are the events given below (in no particular order) of what are commonly thought to be the top five Ryder Cup moments.
The Miracle at Medinah 2012
In Chicago that year the European team included four of the top five world ranked players; however, they were struggling against a run of brilliant putting emanating from a largely rookie American team. The Europeans found themselves 10-5 down and two down with six holes to play in the final match on the Saturday; the outlook was bleak. At this point, up stepped Britain’s Ian Poulter to play some of his finest golf and produced five closing birdies in the four-balls with partner Rory McIlroy.
Poulter's enthusiasm and charisma raised the belief of success in the European team and at this point there was a swing in the match, away from a potential loss towards a possible victory. The drama and drive of the Brit spurred the European team on and changed the momentum in one of the greatest sporting come-backs of all time. The match was finished off by a nerveless Martin Kaymer on the 18th where he holed a six-footer to halve his round against Steve Strickler. The come-back was so great that it has since become known as the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
An emotional reception for Darren Clark on the first tee in 2006
Great roars of applause have become traditional at the first tee on the first morning of the Ryder Cup; however, they have rarely been as loud as when the recently widowed Ulsterman, Darren Clark, stepped up to begin his round in 2006. Just 6 weeks after the death of his wife Heather, from cancer, an emotional Clark walked out onto the first tee at K Club in Ireland. After missing out on competitions earlier in the year to be by her side, it was his dying wife’s wish that he should make himself available for the Ryder Cup team.
She had loved the event and wanted him to take part in it regardless of the circumstances. Clark had not played well that year, for obvious reasons, and had taken time off after Heather’s death, meaning that he did not have sufficient match play to be selected for the Ryder Cup. However, captain Ian Woosnam selected Clark as a wild card and his faith in the capability of his team mate was rewarded.
On the first hole Clark made a brilliant birdie and with unquestionable bravery he went on to help the team to a comprehensive victory. Clark stoically went on to win all his matches and the Europeans claimed their third consecutive Ryder Cup by a margin of 18 and a half to nine and a half. Later, Ian Woosnam dedicated their Ryder Cup win to Heather and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. This story of Darren Clark helped re focus the spirit of the Ryder cup. Moreover, his emotional reaction at remaining undefeated after his final match brought a level of humanity to the game that transcended the rivalry.
The Concession 1969 at Royal Birkdale, Southport
In the 1960s the Ryder Cup pretty much belonged to the Americans, but the match at Royal Birkdale in 1969 was the closest competition yet with 17 of the 32 matches being decided on the final hole. The Great Britain and Ireland team reached the 18th in the last match, level pegging with their opponents. Tony Jacklin (GB) the recent British Open Champion and Jack Nicklaus (USA), eventual winner of 18 Majors, were considered to be two of the best golfers in the world at the time.
Jacklin, who had made a magical 50 foot eagle putt at the 17th, was left with a six foot putt at the 18th to achieve a draw for the tournament. Nicklaus had holed his ball and while Jacklin was lining up his putt, and rather than giving his opponent the chance to miss, Nicklaus graciously collected his ball from the hole, picked up Jacklin's marker and held out his hand to concede. As they shook hands, Nicklaus said to Jacklin ‘I don't believe you would have missed that, but I would never give you the opportunity in these circumstances’.
The American team were said to be furious at this act, but the world still applauds the gentlemanly behaviour. This was the first tie in the history of the Ryder Cup, the gesture encompassed the spirit of the game and is held to be one of the great sporting gestures of all time.
In 2006 the two great players opened a golf course that they had designed on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just south of Tampa. They appropriately called it ‘The Concession Golf Club’, and hope that it embodies the spirit of that Ryder Cup in 1969.
Long wait for a win
Before 1979 the Ryder Cup was only played between golfers from the USA versus those from Great Britain and Ireland. For the first time in 1979, continental European golfers were added to produce a more robust team to face the dominant Americans. However, despite these reinforcements, by 1995 Europe had not beaten the Americans for 28 years. Europe’s golfers had, however, been reducing the winning margins and the previous Cup in Florida in 1993 had been extremely close.
Then, at last, in 1995 Europe gained victory by 16 and a half to 11 and a half. The winning shot was played by the Scotsman Sam Torrance who holed a 22-foot putt on the 18th to beat America’s Andy North. On winning he passionately raised his arms aloft with tears flooding down his face in another iconic Ryder Cup moment.
Down to the final putt 1991
In 1927 Samuel Ryder donated money and a gold cup for bi-annual golf competitions between Great Britain and the US. The Ryder Cup was offered as a competitive event to showcase the very best of sportsmanship. However, it was gamesmanship and rivalry at an all-time high that dominated at Kiawah Island in 1991. There was agitation on both teams, disagreements and plenty of drama; so much so that it became known as ‘The war on the shore’.
The highly strained atmosphere made the final outcome all the more emotional. The Americans were urged on by the fact that the Europeans had already held on to the cup for their longest period in history, and they wanted it back. The score was 8:8 when going into the single matches on the Sunday. Ultimately, it all came down to the final putt of the 28th match between Germany’s Bernhard Langer and America’s Hale Irwin.
In an overwhelmingly tense atmosphere, Langer held his ice cool, but the six foot shot was a difficult one and it just slipped past the hole. The American team were ecstatic at winning the cup for the first time in eight years, while the European team were bitterly disappointed. Bernhard Langer’s profile, looking skyward after his miss, has become an iconic image of the Ryder Cup.
For more information check out the Ryder Cup website.