A look back at the 5 best Ryder Cups in history
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — The Ryder Cup is so hotly contested that even its humble beginning is the subject of debate.
One side has the president of Inverness Club in Ohio as the first to raise the idea of a match between professionals from America and Britain. Most historians lean toward Samuel Ryder, the wealthy English seed merchant, as helping to organize matches at Wentworth in 1926 at a time when Americans were coming over for British Open qualifying. As the story goes, Ryder promised a cup to the winner — even though a cup was never awarded.
The Ryder Cup began a year later in 1927, and the fact it was named after the Englishman would have to give his side a 1-up lead.
There truly was a home field advantage, for it wasn't until the sixth Ryder Cup in 1937 that the visiting team won. World War II came along, and it took Britain years to recover. But ever since continental Europe was added in 1979, the Ryder Cup mostly has lived up to its growing reputation as the biggest spectacle in golf.
No other list in golf is more subjective, but here's one take on the five most relevant Ryder Cup matches in history:
5. EUROPEAN STATEMENT, AMERICAN WIN (1983)
It was Jack Nicklaus who in 1977 made the recommendation that all of continental Europe be included in the Ryder Cup, and in his first year as captain, it almost came back to haunt him. The opposing captain was Tony Jacklin, and just like the time Nicklaus and Jacklin first squared off as players in the Ryder Cup, the matches were tied at 8 going into the Sunday singles.
The first singles match produced what many consider to be the greatest shot ever hit in the Ryder Cup. Seve Ballesteros played his first two shots so poorly on the par-5 18th at PGA National that he was in the bunker, near a lip, and still had 245 yards to clear the water. Amazingly, he pulled out a 3-wood and hit it so flush that it narrowly cleared the lip and came just short of the green, allowing him to halve the match. "The greatest shot I ever saw," Nicklaus said, high praise coming from him.
The matches remained at 13 with two matches on the course. Jose Maria Canizares had a 1-up lead on Lanny Wadkins playing the 18th, while Tom Watson was 1 up on Bernard Gallacher on the 17th. Wadkins hit a wedge to a foot for birdie to win the hole and earn a half-point, such a quality shot that Nicklaus kissed the divot. Watson only had to halve the 17th to assure the Americans keeping the cup, but Gallacher made double bogey and Watson won outright.
The United States won, 14½-13½, but it was a sign that Europe finally was on equal footing with the Americans. Two years later, Europe would win for the first time in 28 years.
4. THE CONCESSION (1969)
The United States owned the Ryder Cup in this era, winning the previous five matches by at least five points, so not much was expected of Great Britain & Ireland in 1969 at Royal Birkdale. It turned out to be as close as a match could be — and the tie resulted in a putt that was conceded.
The matches were tied at 8 going into the final day, which at the time included two sessions of eight singles matches. It came down to the last two matches of the day.
Brian Huggett was lining up a 4-foot putt to halve his match against Billy Casper when he heard an enormous roar from the 17th, and assumed Jacklin had closed out his match against Nicklaus. That would mean his putt was for the win, and under enormous pressure, he made it.
Alas, Jacklin had made a 40-foot eagle to square the match, and he and Nicklaus came down the 18th with the Ryder Cup hanging in the balance. Nicklaus faced a 5-footer, while Jacklin was just inside 3 feet. In his first Ryder Cup, Nicklaus made it for 4. Jacklin now had to make his to halve the match.
Nicklaus instead picked up his coin and conceded the match, resulting in the first tie in Ryder Cup history — 16-16. The Americans still retained the cup, although captain Sam Snead was miffed that Nicklaus didn't make him putt.
"I don't think you would have missed that putt, but under these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity," Nicklaus told him.
It is considered the greatest act of sportsmanship in the history of the Ryder Cup.
3. THE GREAT AMERICAN COMEBACK (1999)
The 1999 Ryder Cup began with a flap over whether the American players should have any stake in the millions of dollars the PGA of America made off the event. None of them looked to be worth a dime against Europe at The Country Club, where 19-year-old Sergio Garcia made a dynamic debut and every move made by U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw turned out to be the wrong one.