Ryder Cup Matches date back to 1926 when the Royal and Ancient required
regional qualifying prior to the 1926 British Open, forcing American
competitors to make their transatlantic crossing earlier. While
in England, a group of American golfers competed in an informal
match against their British counterparts at Wentworth Country Club.
They were soundly defeated 13.5 - 1.5.In the gallery of spectators
at this match was an English seed merchant named Samuel Ryder. Following
play, it was suggested that Ryder provide a trophy and encourage
the matches on a regular basis. Ryder agreed and commissioned the
design of the gold challis that bears his name and the likeness
of his personal golf tutor, Abe Mitchell, on the top.
THE AMERICANS DOMINATE
The inaugural Ryder Cup Matches were played at Worcester (Mass) Country Club in1927. The American team, captained by Walter Hagen, won that historic first match 9.5 - 2.5.Over the next sixty years the Ryder Cup Matches were virtually dominated by the Americans. One exception was in1969 when perhaps the most memorable moment in Ryder Cup history resulted in a 16-16 tie at Royal Birkdale. Jack Nicklaus conceded a four-foot putt on the final hole to Tony Jacklin to halve their match and gain a tie for the European team. That one gesture of sportsmanship probably best epitomizes what the Ryder Cup Matches are all about.
THE MATCHES BECOME COMPETITIVE
In 1979 the Ryder Cup Matches were expanded to allow players from
the European continent to compete for what would now be called "Europe".
Although the Matches became more competitive, the American team
won by a good margin in both the 1979 and 1981Matches. Then, as
if to signal what the future would hold for the Ryder Cup Matches,
the Americans just barely hung on to win the 1983Matches 14.5 -
Finally, in 1985, the European team prevailed at The Belfry, winning
16.5 - 11.5 and followed up with a 15-13 win at Muirfield
Village, Captain Jack Nicklaus' home club. It was their first
consecutive win ever and the first on American soil.
THE GREATEST COMPETITION IN SPORTS
Thus the stage was set for some of the most exciting and dramatic golf
competitions ever. In 1989, the media coverage for the Ryder Cup
Matches was intense, with the Matches being televised back to the
U.S. live for the first time. After years of having always won the
Ryder Cup, Americans had suddenly taken great interest in the outcome.
This time it was Christy O'Connor, the Irish veteran, who
was the European hero. With his match against Fred Couples all square
at the eighteenth, he hit a two-iron to within four feet of the
flag. This so unnerved Couples that, needing only a nine-iron, he
missed the green to the right. As Couples conceded the match to
O'Connor, Americans watched as both men broke down from the
In 1991, the teams waged a memorable duel on the shores of South
Carolina at Kiawah Island. At the end, Bernhard Langer missed as
ix foot par putt at number eighteen to ensure Hale Irwin a halve
for their match and a one point victory for the Americans 14.5 -
13.5.The Americans had reclaimed the Ryder Cup they lost in 1985.
America won another close match back at The Belfry in 1993 and
seemed poised to return to their position of dominance heading to
Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. for the 1995 Matches. After
two days of competition the American team was in control with a
two point lead when the European team mounted a comeback on the
final day to win the 31st Ryder Cup Matches 14.5 - 13.5.
In 1997 the Matches were contested at Valderamma Golf Club in Soto
Grande, Spain -the first time in Continental Europe. The Europeans
built a substantial lead and held on as the Americans' final
day rally fell short 14.5 - 13.5. The tide had swung again
and now it was the European side that had won twice in succession.
THE GREATEST COME-BACK EVER
In 1999, at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the American team
was reeling with a seemingly insurmountable10-6 deficit going into
the final day singles. Only one man seemed to believe in miracles.
"I'm going to leave y'all with one thought, and
then I'm going to leave", said Ben Crenshaw, as he faced
the assembled media. "I'm a big believer in fate. I
have a good feeling about this. That's all I'm going
to tell you".
Following an emotional team meeting on Saturday night, at which
then Texas Governor George W. Bush read a passage recounting the
defense of the Alamo, the American team stormed out on Sunday to
make Crenshaw's words about fate and good feelings ring true.
Winning the first six matches, the Americans did exactly what was
needed to win and completed the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history
by defeating the European team 14.5 -13.5. And what golf fan
will ever forget Justin Leonards' 50 foot putt at number seventeen
to ensure a half point in his match with Jose Maria Olazabel and
an American victory.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
This past September's Matches at The Belfry only continued the
tradition. Just when the American team appeared down and out Paul
Azinger holed his bunker shot at eighteen to cut short the premature
European celebration. Only when Paul McGinley holed an 11 foot par
putt on 18 to halve Jim Furyk and ensure victory could the Europeans
breathe a sigh of relief.
What can we expect in the 2006 Matches at the K Club in Ireland? You can be sure Captain Tom Lehman will have his American team fired up to win back the Cup after a dismal showing in 2004 at Oakland Hills.
Whatever the outcome, the Ryder Cup Matches seem to find a new
script filled with excitement and drama.