Starting back in 1927, when the USA took on Great Britain, the Ryder Cup has become one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and there have been some sensational editions of this event during its long history.
With the 2021 Ryder Cup kicking off at Whistling Straits on Friday, we have taken a trip down memory lane to pick out five of the greatest showdowns in the men’s biennial golf competition.
1985 – The Belfry, Brabazon Course
With the USA dominating the Ryder Cup in the first 50 years, the decision was made to expand the competition to players from continental Europe from the 1979 edition onwards, allowing individuals like Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido to compete.
The new-look European Team replaced Great Britain and Ireland as the official opposition to the United States, and although this didn’t change matters in 79, 81 and 83, it all came together for the challengers in 85.
Played at the famous Belfry, which would host the event in 1989, 1993 and 2002, Europe made a disappointing start, and they trailed 3-1 after the first session, but they bounced back over the next three sessions to take a 9-7 lead heading into Sunday’s singles.
It was a blitz of blue on the leaderboard during the singles, as Europe claimed seven and a half points of the 12 on offer to claim a commanding 16.5-11.5 victory – Europe’s first Ryder Cup triumph and the USA’s first loss since 1957.
1987 – Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio
Having clinched their first Ryder Cup in 1985, the test for Europe in 1987 was to back up that performance and win on US soil for the first time, something they achieved in nervy fashion.
Europe, who had rookie Jose Maria Olazabal in the Team, steamrolled the Americans over the first two days, and the visitors built a formidable 10.5-5.5 lead heading into the fifth and final session.
Requiring just 3.5 points to retain the cup, the reigning champions were given a rude awakening as they lost five of the opening seven singles, with Faldo, Olazabal, Woosnam, Jose Rivero and Sandy Lyle all beaten.
Eamonn Darcy, Howard Clark and Ballesteros were the only European players that managed to win their matches, while Langer, Torrance and Gordon Brand Jnr picked up halves. That proved to be enough for Europe, who ended up 15-13 winners to triumph on US soil for the first time.
1991 – Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course, South Carolina
The 1991 competition, dubbed the ‘War on the Shore’, is forever remembered as the moment the Ryder Cup changed regarding the attitude of the players and the rivalry between the USA and Europe.
Having failed to win the cup since 1983, the USA were pumped up to deliver the goods and, importantly, they had a whole nation behind them in one of the most controversial Ryder Cups to date.
Before the first day of action, Steve Pate was injured in a car crash and was subsequently left out of the first three sessions due to a rib injury before returning for Saturday’s four-balls.
However, controversy ensued after the US team announced Pate couldn’t play his singles match on Sunday, due to his injury, and his game with David Gilford was halved. Europe felt this was gamesmanship.
This was not the only controversial incident. US pair Paul Azinger and Chip Beck were accused of switching golf balls by Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal in Friday’s foursomes match. Despite being adamant they didn’t do this, the American duo eventually confessed.
Paul Broadhurst revealed in an interview that radio stations rang the European team hotel at 5am in the morning, a tactic he felt was to disrupt the sleep of him and his teammates, while Langer later claimed in his book that walkie-talkie conversations were intercepted, or purposely misdirected.
The overall outcome all came down to the last match between Hale Irwin and Langer, who had an eight-foot putt on the final hole that would have secured the half and retained the cup for Europe. Unfortunately, the German’s putt slipped past the right edge, and the US won the cup.
1999 – The Country Club, Composite Course, Brookline, Massachusetts
Having lost the last two Ryder Cups, the USA were desperate to taste success at Brookline, but it looked like they would suffer defeat for the third straight event, as they were 10-6 down heading into Sunday.
Before this, no team had come back from two points down entering the singles, but the Americans produced a sensational comeback as their front-loaded side won the first six matches before Steve Pate and Jim Furyk also added a point each.
In one of the most memorable moments in Ryder Cup history, Justin Leonard then holed a monster putt to secure the half against Olazabal and ensure the cup would be staying in the US.
2012 – Medinah Country Club, Course 3, Illinois
Europe produced their own Brookline moment in 2012 when they triumphed on US soil for the first time since 2004, the feat known as the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.
Trailing 10-4 with two matches still to be completed on Saturday’s afternoon session, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald managed to pull a point back before Ian Poulter, paired with Rory McIlroy, birdied five of his last six holes to reduce the deficit to 10-6.
Inspired by the late Ballesteros, Europe claimed 8.5 points from the singles to complete the stunning comeback, with German Martin Kaymer holing the winning putt on the 18th hole in the penultimate match.
It was a truly stunning display from Europe, but one performance, in particular, that of Poulter, nicknamed ‘The Postman’ for always delivering in the Ryder Cup, will live long in the memory.