25 Most Incredible Shots/Moments in Ryder Cup History
The Ryder Cup has very humble roots. It began in 1927 and for many years was a friendly, but sporting get-together of professional golfers from both sides of the ocean.
It grew in stature over the years and, as the event grew into the 1960s, so did the rancor between the United States and the European team. (At that point it was still Great Britain & Ireland, but expanded to Europe in 1979).
There have been spectacular shots, special moments, and historic occasions.
Check out the following list of 25 of the best.
Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup in 2006
There have been great shots, great duels and great dramas in the 38 Ryder Cups, but none compare to Darren Clarke and his experience in the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club.
Clarke’s wife, Heather, had lost a long battle with cancer just a few months before the first-ever Ryder Cup on Irish soil.
Even though he was in a fragile state of mind, Clarke decided to play in front of his home fans.
His appearance on the first tee produced one of the most spine-tingling ovations ever.
Clarke was able to channel his emotions into good play, winning all three of his matches, as Europe dominated, 18 ½-9 1/2.
Calcavecchia’s Blow Up
Mark Calcavecchia has become focal point in any conversation regarding the 1999 Ryder Cup, the War on the Shore.
It was a tense and difficult competition that started the Cup on the path to the acrimonious, politically charged event it is today.
Calcavecchia was four up with four to play (after leading by five holes through nine holes) against Colin Montgomerie, but missed a two-foot putt on 17 to cut the margin to one.
He then bogeyed the final hole to give Montgomerie a halve.
The fact that the United States won the Ryder Cup that year is often forgotten due to his meltdown.
Americans, Wives, Girls Riled European Team in 1999
In 1999 at Brookline Country Club, the United States trailed 10-6 going into the Sunday singles.
The red, white and blue, however, committed an act of unsportsmanlike behavior that will be remembered for many, many years—especially by the European team.
Justin Leonard holed a 45-foot putt that clinched no less than a tie for the U.S. team.
His teammates, as well as wives and girlfriends, stormed the green for a wild celebration even before playing partner Jose Maria Olazabal had an opportunity to putt.
Nicklaus' Sportmanship Gesture Highlighted 1969 Ryder Cup
The 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale was another get-together that was something less than cordial.
On the 18th hole of their singles match, Jack Nicklaus made a four-foot putt, leaving Tony Jacklin with a two-footer to halve the match.
Nicklaus knew the U.S. had enough points to retain the Cup so he gave Jacklin the putt and the match ended, 16-16.
Nicklaus picked up Jacklin's marker and said, “I don’t think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances, I would never give you the opportunity."
Seve Ballesteros' Miracle Shot in 1983
In the 1983 match at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, Seve Ballesteros was three up against Fuzzy Zoeller with five to go in their singles match.
By the time they reached the 18th tee, however, the two were tied. Ballesteros' tee shot landed in the deep rough and all he could do was hack it into the bunker.
This left him 245 yards to the hole on a green that was bordered by water on the right and back.
But Ballesteros was never one to back away from a challenge.
He picked the ball cleanly from the sand and sliced it nearly 50 yards, just short of the putting surface.
Predictably, Ballesteros chipped and putted for par to halve the hole and the match.
Nick Faldo Aces Paul Azinger in 1993 Ryder Cup
Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger have had one of golf’s all-time best rivalries.
In the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry, Faldo halved their singles match, thanks to a spectacular hole-in-one.
At the 14th hole, Faldo’s tee shot looked like it was headed for a greenside bunker, but just missed it.
The ball skipped onto the green, rolled around the cup and into the hole.
Inclusion of Europe with Great Britain and Ireland Changed the Ryder Cup Forever
One of the biggest moments in the modern-day history of the Ryder Cup surprisingly occurred off the course.
In 1979, the Great Britain and Ireland team was altered to included all of Europe.
That first year signaled the emergence of Seve Ballesteros as a Ryder Cup contender.
In 1981, Bernhard Langer made the team and in 1983 both Ballesteros and Langer were on the European roster.
This decision changed the face of the Ryder Cup.
Christy O'Connor Jr.'s Spectacular 2-Iron Shot
Through the years, Christy O’Connor Jr. has been viewed as a Ryder Cup hero of sorts, even though his record in the matches was 1-3-0.
The one victory, however, was as big and dramatic as a win could be.
In the 1989 matches at the Belfry, O’Connor faced Fred Couples in the Sunday singles. Couples had risen to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and was the first American to do so since the rankings came into being in 1986.
On the final hole, O’Connor striped a 2-iron shot to within five feet of the flag and made the putt.
This shot ultimately won the match and gave Europe a halve in the overall match, allowing them to retain the Cup.
Seve Ballesteros—Paul Azinger Rivalry Continues in 1991 Ryder Cup
In one of the greatest pairs matches in Ryder Cup history, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal knocked off the United States team of Paul Azinger and Chip Beack, 2 & 1, in the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.
The matchup was fueled by previous battles between Ballesteros and Azinger, including the 1989 Cup matches when they accused each other of cheating..
Colin Montgomerie Was Perfect in Ryder Cup Singles
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie was unbeaten in eight Ryder Cup singles matches and punctuated that record by making a putt in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills that clinched the match for Europe.
He defeated David Toms that day, 2&1, embellishing a Ryder Cup record that is second only to Nick Faldo's of the European team.
Sam Torrance Clinched the 1985 Ryder Cup for Europe and Then Cried
The United States dominated the Ryder Cup competition for two-and-a-half decades, until Sam Torrance made a 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole of his match with Andy North at the Belfry in 1985.
North had sailed his drive into a lake and made it to the green in four.
Torrance blasted a good drive and his approach found the green. While he didn’t need to make a birdie to win, he did anyway. When the putt went in, he raised his arms and cried.
Gentle Ben Crenshaw Became Angry Ben and Broke His Putter
In 1987, at Muirfield Village Golf Club (the course that Jack built), the Europeans won the Ryder Cup on United States soil for the first time in the history of the competition. The win gave Europe back-to-back victories for the first time as well.
But a very weird sidelight will always share some of the billing with Europe. Ben Crenshaw (remember Ben Crenshaw?) faced Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy in a Sunday singles match, with the U.S. down by five points going into the singles.
Crenshaw lost his temper on the sixth hole and snapped the shaft of his putter.
As a result, he was forced to putt with his sand wedge and one-iron the rest of the way. Darcy jumped out to a 3-hole lead after that, but Crenshaw staged a rally to get even. He bogeyed the 18th to lose 1-up.
Wadkins' 18th Hole Wedge in 1983 Ryder Cup
Lanny Wadkins was known as a bulldog in his playing days, a player who never faced a flag he wouldn't shoot at.
In the 1983 Ryder Cup at Palm Beach Gardens, Wadkins was one-down to Jose Maria Canizares on the last hole. His match was the only undecided one and the U.S. team needed him to get a halve to secure the victory.
Wadkins stuck a wedge to about a foot from the pin and made birdie to win. Captain Jack Nicklaus, so impressed with the shot, ran out onto the fairway and kissed the divot.
Payne Stewart: Fierce Competitor, Great Sportsman
Yes, another memorable moment from the 1999 Ryder Cup.
This one involves golf’s tragic champion, Payne Stewart. Just about a month from his death in a bizarre airplane crash, Stewart was in an intense battle with Colin Montgomerie at the Country Club on Sunday afternoon.
He was a ferocious competitor, but once he realized his team had already clinched the victory, he conceded his singles match to Montgomerie, who had suffered all day from unruly fans’ jeers and catcalls.
Paul McGinley Wasn't Highly Rated but Was Big for Europe in 2002
Paul McGinley, the workman-like European, didn’t have much of a Ryder Cup record, finishing 2-2-5.
In the 2002 Ryder Cup at the Belfry, he struggled in foursome matches with Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington.
But his singles performance against Jim Furyk was a big one for his European teammates.
He drained a 10-foot putt on18 to clinch the win for Europe and let the home team reclaim the trophy.
Boo Weekley Was a Character and a Winner in 2008 Ryder Cup
Boo Weekley burst onto the PGA Tour scene by winning the Verizon Heritage twice in Harbour Town, S.C. He made the 2008 Ryder Cup team for the United States, as well.
Weekley performed well for the U.S., winning two matches and halving another.
He gained international acclaim, however, by putting his driver between his legs and “riding” it down the first fairway in an effort to get the American crowd at the Valhalla Golf club revved up.
Europe's Bernhard Langer Suffered Heartbreak at Kiawah Island in 1991
The entire 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island couldn’t have been scripted any better, but the ending was unbelievable.
With a huge crowd around the 18th green and down the fairway at the Ocean Course, Bernhard Langer needed to make a four-foot par putt to beat Hale Irwin and retain the Cup for the European team,
Langer’s effort barely grazed the right edge of the club. The partisan American crowd broke into chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A,” while Langer let out an audible cry of anguish.
Second Tie in Ryder Cup History Allowed Europe to Retain Ryder Cup in 1989
There have been only two ties in the history of the Ryder Cup.
The first was at Royal Birkdale in 1969 and the most recent was 1989 at The Belfry. The second allowed Europe to retain the Cup, thanks to the U.S. team’s misfortunes at the tricky 18th hole.
Payne Stewart and Mark Calcavecchia tried to drive the green and both got their balls wet. They both lost their singles matches andFred Couples dunked his second shot and lost.
Jose Maria Canizares’ 1-up victory over Ken Green clinched the tie for Europe, even though the U.S. won the last four singles matches to get that tie.
Last U.S. Win in Europe Happened Because of Chip Beck and John Cook
It’s hard to imagine that the U.S. team hasn’t won a Ryder Cup on European soil since 1993. It took a big effort by a couple of the lesser lights on the team, Chip Beck and John Cook to make that happen.
Going into the Saturday afternoon fourballs, the U.S. trailed Europe, 7 ½-4 ½.
Beck and Cook went out in the first match and brought down two European giants, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, 2-up.
The U.S. capitalized on that momentum to win three of the next four matches and picked up 7 ½ of the 12 singles points on Sunday to win.
Ballesteros, Olazabal Lost Just Twice as a Ryder Cup Team
They weren't nicknamed the Spanish Armada for nothing.
Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were paired together 15 times in foursomes and fourballs during four Ryder Cups between 1987-1993.
Remarkably, they lost only two matches.
Hal Sutton's Folly: Pairing Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in 2004 Ryder Cup
As captain of the 2004 United States Ryder Cup team, Hal Sutton thought he knew what the fans wanted.
So much for thinking.
The pressure was evident on both players’ faces as they stepped onto the first tee.
They lost to Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington, 2 & 1 in the morning fourballs and suffered the same fate to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, 2 & 1 in the afternoon foursomes.
U.S. Ryder Cup Team Was Awesome in 1981 in Win over Europe at Walton Heath
The United States won Ryder Cup matches on European soil in the event’s early going.
In 1981 at Walton Heath, the red, white and blue pounded Europe until they were black and blue.
The final score was 18 ½-9 ½ as the team that included names like Lee Trevino, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd and Raymond Jackson, was overwhelming. Europe was without Seve Ballesteros after he was suspended after a disciplinary issue with the European Tour.
United States Was Dominant in First Ryder Cup in 1927
In 1927, the first official Ryder Cup competition was held with the U.S. defeating Great Britain and Ireland, 9 ½-2 1/2, at Worcester Country Club in Worcester, Mass.
Two previous unofficial matches between Great Britain & Ireland and the U.S. had been held in 1921 and 1926. In the gallery in 1926 was Samuel Ryder.
A member of the GB&I team said to Ryder that he wanted a regular official match.
Ryder donated a solid gold cup. Ryder also made a sizable donation toward the $3,000 pounds needed to bring the team to Massachusetts in 1927.
The United States won the first official competition, 9 1/2-2 1/2.
Graeme McDowell Followed Up 2010 U.S. Open Win with Clutch Play in Ryder Cup
The 2010 Ryder Cup, the first ever held in Wales, ended up also being the first ever four-day Ryder Cup.
Heavy rains turned Celtic Manor into one very messy golf course and the event schedule was washed away.
Europe grabbed 5½ points from the two foursome and four fourball matches played on Sunday to take a 9½-6½ advantage going into the Monday singles.
The U.S. put together a spirited comeback in the singles and with the final match to play, the match stood, 13½-13½.
Graeme McDowell birdied the 16th in his match against Hunter Mahan to go two up with two to play. When Mahan duffed a chip shot on the 17th, it was all over.
Ryder Cup Has Been Interrupted Only Twice
From it's debut in 1927, the Ryder Cup has only been interrupted twice.
The first time was because of World War II. There were no events from 1939 through 1945. The other time was in 2001when it was scheduled for Sept. 28-30 at The Belfry. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 precluded the competition and it was rescheduled 2002.
Since then, the event has been played in even-numbered years.