Five best moments when the Ryder Cup is won

Associated Press Published: September 28, 2012
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MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — The end of the last Ryder Cup can look frightening on television. Hunter Mahan conceded on the 17th hole at Celtic Manor, and what began with teammates rushing over to congratulate Graeme McDowell turned into a mob. It was like ants converging on a morsel of food.

And it was pure joy for McDowell.

There can be no greater feeling than delivering the clinching point in the Ryder Cup, to the point where it has become a badge of honor. There even was some debate in 2004 whether it was Colin Montgomerie or Ian Poulter who was in the decisive match. Montgomerie gets the credit.

Years ago, a reporter was curious about the celebration of winning the Ryder Cup, and how that must feel for the losing player in the match. The reporter brought up the image of Sam Torrance, who simply raised both arms as Europe ended a 28-year losing streak. Trouble is he mentioned this to Andy North.

"That was me that he beat," North said. "Thanks for bringing that up."

The best moments when the Ryder Cup is won? Here are five to consider:

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5. NICKLAUS KISSES THE DIVOT

The modern era of the Ryder Cup is traced to 1983 at PGA National, which is when the matches first became competitive and have remained that way. U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus never played on a losing team, and his reaction at a key moment showed how much the intensity was starting to ratchet up.

The matches were tied at 8 going into the Sunday singles, and they were still tied at 13 with two games on the course. Tom Watson was 1 up on Bernard Gallacher playing the 17th, while Jose Maria Canizares was 1 up on Lanny Wadkins on the par-5 18th. A half-point for Wadkins figured to be crucial, and he delivered one of the most memorable shots in the Ryder Cup — a pitching wedge to within inches of the cup, that enabled him to win the hole.

Nicklaus was so thrilled that he grabbed the divot and kissed it.

Technically, it wasn't the clinching moment, but Nicklaus made it feel that way. Moments later, Gallacher made double bogey and the Americans won. Barely.

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4. THE PUTT AGAINST ALL ODDS

Justin Leonard's 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at Brookline lives in Ryder Cup infamy for so many reasons. Ultimately, it cannot be ignored.

The Americans needed only a halve to reach 14½ points and win the cup and complete the biggest comeback in history. Leonard had been 4 down and rallied to square the match playing the 17th, though Olazabal had the edge from 25 feet, while Leonard faced his monster putt up the hill. He was quite thrilled when the putt dropped for birdie, which is quite an understatement.

Leonard thrust his arms, turned and ran toward his caddie. That was fine. Trouble is, the American team watching — and their wives — ran across the green to join in the celebration, even though Olazabal still had a putt to halve the hole. Leonard helped restore order, and Olazabal missed his putt.

In an Associated Press survey 10 years ago on the greatest shots in the Ryder Cup, veteran British writers could not ignore the significance of the putt. The late Dai Davies of The Guardian perhaps summed it up best when he wrote, "It was a great putt. We'll say no more."

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3. A DREAM SEASON, A DREAM FINISH

Graeme McDowell didn't realize his year could get better than winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. But it did.

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