Since first being played in 1927, the Ryder Cup has presented the world with plenty of memorable moments. It’s seen intense rivalries, seemingly impossible shots and lots of personality from the players. To honor these players and their performances, here are our top ten favorite moments in Ryder Cup history:
1. Jack Nicklaus Concession – Royal Birkdale, 1969
In the days when the United States dominated the Ryder Cup, the 1969 edition was decided when Jack Nicklaus sportingly conceded a 6-foot putt to Tony Jacklin. This magnanimous suggestion ensured that match was tied, much to the chagrin of his fellow American teammates. Up until the call, both sides had demonstrated ungentlemanly gamesmanship, causing ugly tensions to build. Therefore, Nicklaus’s call is especially valiant as he strove to mend relations between the two factions.
2. Ian Poulter’s Comeback – Chicago, 2012
From the onset of the 2012 Ryder Cup, it seemed like the Americans were a sure thing. However, Europe would stage a vivid comeback from no less than 10-4 down to ultimately win the 2012 Ryder Cup. But the performance of Ian Poulter, making no less than five consecutive birdies with his Titleist golf balls, enabled him and Rory McIlroy to beat Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. This will go down in history as one of the competition’s outstanding individual performances.
3. The US are Finally Beaten – The Belfry, 1985
The United States experienced thirty straight years of Ryder Cup wins, bringing into question whether the competition was even worth holding. However, come 1985, traditions were defied and the Europeans came out on top. Sam Torrance holed the winning putt to beat Andy North, and proceeded to break into a flood of tears, reflecting the sentiments experienced by many individuals east of the Atlantic. Knowing that there was no longer a “sure thing” for the Ryder Cup, making the match all the more thrilling.
4. Langer’s Missed Putt, Kiawah Island, 1991
Of all Ryder Cup competitions, the 1991 event at Kiawah Island featured the twitchiest finish that many found excruciating to witness. Bernhard Langer was left with a 6-foot putt to halve his match with Hale Irwin and retain the trophy for the European team; to the joy of the Americans, the golf ball infamously slid right past the hole.
5. Boo Weekley Rides his Driver – Valhalla, 2008
Boo Weekley may have faded into obscurity somewhat since his run in 2008, but he remains of one of the most charismatic and eccentric characters to have represented either the USA or Europe. The image of Weekley pretending to ride his Cleveland golf club in the US triumph at Valhalla remains one of the Ryder Cup’s most enduring images.
6. Justin Leonard’s Monster Putt – Brookline Country Club, 1999
In 1999, circumstances looked bleak for the American team as the Ryder Cup carried on. However, the tides turned when Justin Leonard stepped up to swing. He amazed everyone with an incredible 45-foot putt on the 17th hole at Brookline. This astonishing fete of athleticism positioned his team for a shocking comeback for victory.
7. Payne Stewart Concession – Brookline Country Club, 1999
In a poignant moment, the now-deceased Payne Stewart conceded his singles match to Colin Montgomerie, who had been enduring rather a torrid time from the crowd. Stewart is sadly missed by golf fans and is remembered for his gentlemanly sportsmanship.
8. First Europe Overseas Victory – Muirfield Village, 1987
With a surge of great players in the 1980s, Europe began to turn around the American domination of the Ryder Cup. A major milestone in their upward trajectory was when they claimed their first overseas win in the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village in 1987. To add insult to injury, the Americans lost on a golf course that had been personally designed by captain Jack Nicklaus.
9. Seve Ballesteros Does the Impossible – Palm Beach Gardens, 1983
Any golfer, pro or amateur, has had that feeling of landing in a bunker and having that feeling of dread and doom fill one’s gut. However, Seve Ballesteros calmly navigated a seemingly impossible situation; a harrowing 245 yards from the green, the Spaniard calmly used his wood to bounce the ball out of the sand pit and curved it 50 yards to skillfully evade the water and put himself back in the running. Spectators reacted with shocked silence and nervous laughter, as viewing this incredible shot was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that was hard to believe.
10. Darren Clarke’s Bittersweet Win – K Club, 2006
With his wife having passed away due to cancer shortly before the 2006 event, the participation of Darren Clarke was far from certain. But Clarke accepted captain Ian Woosnam’s wildcard pick, and was the figurehead of a very comfortable 18½-9½ victory for the European team. Clarke’s tears on the 16th green as he secured a singles win have gone down in Ryder Cup folklore.