6. A Historic Suggestion by the Golden Bear – 1977
As the Americans were finishing up another decisive Ryder Cup victory in 1977, Jack Nicklaus approached Lord Derby, president of the PGA of Great Britain, asking him to include not just Great Britain & Ireland, but all of Europe in the Ryder Cup. Backing his statement up in a letter stating, “it is vital to widen the selection procedures if the Ryder Cup is to continue to enjoy its past prestige.” By the following year, the changes were in place, and all of Europe was to be included in the selection procedures for the Ryder Cup moving forward. This suggestion was vitally important to the continued success and popularity of the Ryder Cup, as it opened the door for European Ryder Cup greats such as Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Bernhard Langer to participate and become a part of some of the greatest Ryder Cup matches in history.
5. Winning in Jack’s Backyard – 1987, Muirfield, Ohio
After the Europeans ended their long drought of winning the Ryder Cup in 1985, they came to Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus’ backyard – to attempt to win on American soil for the first time in Ryder Cup history. The Europeans continued their domination from two years prior, and did the unthinkable, won the Ryder Cup on American Soil, 15-13. What was just as memorable as the European victory was the European celebration on the 18th green where the entire team began to dance, with Olazabal flamingo dancing, and essentially pouring salt into the recently opened wound of the American defeat. The American team had just lost for the first time ever on American soil, and in Jack’s backyard while he was captaining the team. This would begin the bad blood and tension that would define the Ryder Cup over the next decade and turn it into what it is a must-see event today.
4. Graeme McDowell’s Magic Monday- 2010, Celtic Manor, Wales
With the European Team jumping out to a commanding 9 1/2 – 6 1/2 lead after the first two days, the Americans were hoping to rekindle the magic of Brookline from 11 years earlier when they came back from a 10-6 deficit to win the Ryder Cup in dramatic fashion. Due to weather, the Ryder Cup would extend to Monday for the first time in its history, when Brookline in ’99 gradually started to look like it was repeating itself as the singles matches took form. Rickie Fowler kept the Americans’ hopes alive winning the last 4 holes of his match to win a crucial 1/2 point. Then when Zach Johnson closed out Padraig Harrington 3&2, the Ryder Cup stood at 13 1/2 – 13 1/2. All 35,000 spectators raced over to the 16th hole where Graeme McDowell held a 1up lead over Hunter Mahan, who only needed a 1/2 point for the Americans to retain the Cup. As a kid you often picture yourself anchoring your national team in the Ryder Cup and somehow it all ends with your match left on the course and the whole world watching you. Well that is what these two men had the opportunity to go through, and Graeme McDowell showed his true nerve when he drained a dramatic 25 footer on the 16th hole to go 2up with 2 to play. And when Hunter Mahan tragically duffed his chip shot on the 17th hole, the Europeans would win the Cup in a dramatic ending.
3. War by Shore – 1991, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
As the Ryder Cup began to really heat up with Europe winning the last 3 Cups, the United States hoped to ride the patriotic fever, from the Gulf War that swept Kiawah Island in ’91. In one of the most heated matches of recent history, both teams went back and forth the first two days, ultimately ending the first two days in a dead heat, 8-8. Blood, sweat, and tears engulfed Sunday’s singles match as the tension and drama began to unfold with every match. In an unprecedented meltdown, Mark Calcavecchia blew a 4up lead to Colin Montgomerie over the last 4 holes that included a cold top into the water on 17, to halve his match. Thinking he had cost his team the victory, he broke down in tears – not knowing what was going to happen next. Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, two men known for ice in their veins, were locked in a battle in the anchor match, when the Ryder Cup came down to them. After Irwin three putted the treacherous 17th hole, Langer knocked down a four footer to even the match. That brought the Ryder Cup down to one match and one hole, with the Americans leading 14-13, needing only a half point to win. After two decent drives, both men hit their second shots to the right of the green. Shockingly, Irwin chunked his fairly easy pitch shot halfway to the hole. Langer hit his third shot to about 6 feet. When Irwin missed his long putt for par, the match boiled down to Langer and six feet of Bermuda grass to win the cup for Europe. When Langer’s infamous putt slid past the whole, he straightened and grimaced in one of the more memorable photos of agonizing defeat on the golf course, and the Americans had won the Ryder Cup.
2. 28 year European Drought Over – 1985, The Belfry, England
When did the Ryder Cup become the Ryder Cup? – 1985. Before 1985, the Ryder Cup seemed almost a formality that the Americans would always win. It had been 28 years, 14 Ryder Cups, since the Europeans had won a Ryder Cup. Well, in 1985, European captain Tony Jacklin had formed a united team that comprised of three major winners in Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, and Seve Ballesteros. They would go onto to finally break the American stranglehold of the Ryder Cup and surprisingly win in dominating fashion- 16 1/2 – 11 1/2, in Europe at The Belfry. Sam Torrance would ultimately sink the clinching putt, raising his hands in triumph, immortalizing one of the most famous photos in European Ryder Cup history.
1. The Comeback – 1999 Brookline CC, Massachusetts
With the Ryder Cup continuing to gain notoriety and anticipation every two years, now including the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson now competing in the world of golf, the United States had still lost the last two Ryder Cups, and the Europeans were swiftly becoming a dominating force in the Ryder Cup. 1999 seemed to be no different as the Europeans, behind the exuberant Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik, jumped to an insurmountable 10-6 lead over the Americans heading into Sunday’s singles match. Feeding off Captain Ben Crenshaw’s infamous quote – “I have a good feeling about tomorrow. That’s all I’m gonna say” – the Americans jumped out to an incredible start winning 7 of the first 8 matches. Looking for that final 1/2 point to complete the comeback, the Americans looked to veteran Mark O’Meara, but he would be denied by Padraig Harrington on 18, losing 1 down. While all the attention was on the O’Meara – Harrington match, Justin Leonard was coming back from 4 down in his match with Olazabal, and all of a sudden their match rocketed to the center of the universe heading into the 17th with a 1up lead. Then in one of the most famous and celebrated putts in Ryder Cup history, Justin Leonard knocked down his 45 footer sending the rest of the American team into jubilation and controversially storming the green as Olazabal still had a putt left. When Olazabal’s putt passed the left side of the cup, the Comeback was complete in an unforgettable Ryder Cup for the ages.