1937: Great Britian 4 USA 8, First Away Win
As storms descended on Southport, the teams gathered for what would be the last Ryder Cup for a decade. In the ten years since the Ryder Cup started, no team had yet won an “away” match. Most observers would probably have agreed that Great Britain's continued competitiveness in the event belied the increasing American dominance of golf. By 1937 Walter Hagen had achieved just about everything the game had to offer but, as non playing captain, he was determined to mastermind an American victory in England. Hagen included Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead in his team and watched on contentedly as Sarazen fought back to beat Percy Alliss and Snead comprehensively defeated Richard Burton as America used the final 36 hole singles matches to pull clear. With the Second World War about to interrupt the international game, the 1937 Ryder Cup offered conclusive proof that the one time apprentices in America were now very much the masters of world golf and that America would be the team to beat in the second half of the century.
1969: Great Britain 16 USA 16, The Concession
The attention given to Jack Nicklaus’ decision to concede Tony Jacklin’s putt on the last green often overshadows the drama of the 1969 Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale. 17 of the 32 games went down to the final hole as the match remained too close to call until that final singles game between Nicklaus and Jacklin. Tied after the second day, Great Britain, seemingly newly confident following Jacklin’s Open victory, raced ahead in the morning singles taking five of the eight games and seemed on the brink of an unexpected victory until the USA fought back in the afternoon taking four of the first six games. In the penultimate game Brian Huggett made a four foot putt on the last to halve his match with Billy Casper. That left Nicklaus and Jacklin out on the course to decide the Ryder Cup and set the stage for one of golf’s most celebrated moments.
1981: Europe 9.5 USA 18.5, The Dream Team
Dave Marr’s American team arrived at Walton Heath with 36 majors between them. Only Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Bruce Lietzke had failed to win a major in a side that brought three of the season’s four major champions to Surrey. By contrast the only major winner available to Europe, Seve Ballesteros, had been voted out of the side by his teammates in a row over appearance money on Tour. The US Dream Team duly delivered a huge victory that extended their run to 12 matches without defeat. After Europe slipped ahead on the opening day the US came roaring back to dominate day two by seven wins to one. Marr’s decision to pair his big names together was justified when Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus returned a 100% record from their three games together. There have been closer matches and more dramatic matches but the 1981 Ryder Cup arguably gave the tournament its greatest ever team and, with hindsight, was the pinnacle of America’s extended dominance of the event.
1983: USA 14.5 Europe 13.5, The Tide Starts To Turn
On paper the 1983 Ryder Cup at Palm Beach's PGA National simply extended the monotonous pattern of American victories, but this narrow defeat and the sense of belief the players took from their captain, Tony Jacklin, and their talisman, Seve Ballesteros, heralded a new era for Europe that would culminate in their recent dominance of the event. With the team’s tied at 8 points each after the opening two days the singles went to the wire. The opening game saw Seve hit his famous 3 wood from a fairway bunker at 18 to secure a half with Fuzzy Zoeller and wins for Nick Faldo, Paul Way, Bernhard Langer and Ken Brown suggested Europe could be heading towards a first ever win in America. Then Lanny Wadkins stepped forward to maintain America’s fearsome record. One down going up the eighteenth Wadkins hit a sixty yard pitching wedge to a foot to secure a half with Jose Maria Canizares and give captain Jack Nicklaus the half point he needed to win the Ryder Cup. Ballesteros, inspired by his captain Jacklin, insisted that far from being a defeat the result was proof that Europe had what it took to win the Ryder Cup. 1983 marks the beginning of new era for the Ryder Cup as Seve’s belief that Europe could beat the US slowly spread through his teammates.
1985: Europe 16.5 USA 11.5, Europe's First Win
Europe finally broke the USA stranglehold on the Ryder Cup with a surprisingly comprehensive victory at The Belfry. Captain Tony Jacklin had now created a formidably united European team and, in Langer, Lyle and Ballesteros, could boast of three major winners of his own. Guided by Jacklin off the course and inspired on it by Ballesteros’ 3 ½ points and Manuel Pinero’s 4 points the European team proved they could build a lead and hold on to it. The watershed came in the final match of the foursomes in the morning of day two when Craig Stadler missed a short putt on the last to give Bernhard Langer and Sandy Lyle a half. Sensing the tide was turning Europe took control to lead 9-7 going into the final day. They held their nerve to fight off the predicted onslaught in the singles to take 7 ½ points. The moment belonged to Sam Torrance as he came back from three holes down against Andy North to sink the winning putt. The 1985 Ryder Cup restored European pride and set the stage for their success in recent years.
1995: USA 13.5 Europe 14.5, Europe Win From Behind For First Time
European captain Bernard Gallacher made it third time lucky at Oak Hill after losing in 1991 and 1993. The US Team was on a high after Pavin’s chip in on the last in the final game on Saturday to them the overnight lead. Trailing by 2 points going into the final day singles Europe followed the age old American example and staged an improbable fightback in the singles to win by a single point. Inspired by a wayward Ballesteros performance in the first game against Tom Lehman over the front nine, Howard Clark started the European surge beating Peter Jacobsen by a hole after recording a hole in one on the 11th. After Nick Faldo came back from 1 down with 2 to go against Curtis Strange with his famous up and down from 94 yards at 18, it was left to rookie Philip Walton to see off a comeback by Jay Haas and sink the winning putt on the 18th hole. Despite Phil Mickelson marking his debut with three wins out of three for the US, Europe had come from behind to win for the first time and secured only their second victory in the US. The 1995 Ryder Cup was proof to many that the European challenge really was here to stay and evidence that the team now had the confidence both to preserve a lead and to scrape out a fightback.
1999: USA 14.5 Europe 13.5, Greatest Comeback By US At Brookline
A near total domination of the opening day fourballs at Brookline helped Europe build a record lead going into the singles before America launched one of the Ryder Cup’s most impressive performances on the final day. With Tom Lehman, Phil Mickelson and David Duval leading the charge America won eight of the first nine games to completely change the momentum of the match. Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie secured rare points for Europe before Justin Leonard fought back from four down with seven to play to go one up with one to play against Jose Maria Olazabal. Although Olazabal would win the last Leonard had done enough to secure the half that won America the Ryder Cup. Controversy over the celebrations on the 17th green after Leonard made a 45 foot uphill putt and debate over the tactics of European captain Mark James have too often been allowed to overshadow the real story of the 1999 Ryder Cup and the performance in the singles that America produced to deliver one of the great Ryder Cup comebacks.
2004: USA 9.5 Europe 18.5, Europe Overwhelm US In Record Win
Just in case anyone doubted that the balance of power in the Ryder Cup had really shifted across the Atlantic, Europe crushed America by a record margin at Oakland Hills to retain the trophy and complete their fourth win out of five. Already well in control over the first two days Europe took an 11 – 5 lead into the singles. American captain Hal Sutton, mindful of the accusations levelled at Curtis Strange in 2002, sent out Woods and Mickelson first on Friday. However after Montgomerie and Harrington defeated them 2&1, the momentum of the whole match went Europe’s way. Europe leading 11-5 going into the singles and from the moment Sergio Garcia despatched of Phil Mickelson in match 2, the result at was never in doubt. European captain Bernhard Langer’s decision to give Colin Montgomerie a wild card was vindicated when the Scot continued his unbeaten run in the singles. Despite reports at the time, however, it was not Montgomerie who secured the winning point, that honour instead going to Ian Poulter whose birdie at the 15th against Chris Riley guaranteed him the half point that Europe needed to win the 2004 Ryder Cup.
Have Your Say
So, there is our list. What do you think? Do you agree with us or did we miss one all together? Comment below and let us know what you think.