One of the greatest matches in sport is upon us. The Ryder Cup is a spectacle that grips two continents for one weekend, every two years.
First played in 1927 between Great Britain and the United States of America, the European team first played in 1979 after years of domination from the United States. Alternating each time from being played at a venue in the USA then coming over to European shores, a mixture of foursomes, fourballs, and singles matches held over 3 days sees the 12 players from each team battle it out for a possible 28 points.
Over the years, the Ryder Cup has been a mixture of high-class skill, unrivalled passion, drama of the highest order, with the odd bit of controversy thrown in for good measure.
Here, we count down our top 10 moments from the Ryder Cup over the years.
10. Oakland Hills, 2004
The 35th Ryder Cup saw the Americans host the Europeans At Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. European captain Bernhard Langer led his side to the largest margin of victory by a European team in the event. By winning 18 1/2 to 9 1/2, the Europeans inflicted the biggest defeat on the Americans on home soil.
After day 1, Europe were leading 6 1/2 to 1 1/2 and the visitors never looked back. By the start of Sunday's singles matches, the lead was stretched to 6 points with the score 11 points to 5 and with a strong showing from the Europeans in the singles, the cup was retained.
9. McDowell's winning putt - Celtic Manor, 2010
At a very wet Celtic Manor, plenty of adjustments to the playing schedule took place and the singles ended up being played on the Monday. After 2 sessions of play, USA were leading 6 points to 4. Going into the singles, Europe were in a commanding position leading 9 1/2 to 6 1/2, however the Americans were keen to ruin Monty's party. Having won 7 of the first 11 matches, the scores were tied at 13 1/2 points each. Graeme McDowell held his nerve to sink a left to right putt on the 16th green meaning he was 2 up with 2 to play against Hunter Mahan. A concession on the par 3 17th by Mahan sparked rapturous European celebrations as the hosts had won the cup back.
8. Christy O'Connor Jnr's 2 Iron - The Belfry, 1989
What will go down as one of the greatest shots in Ryder Cup history, Christy O'Connor Jnr was all square against Fred Couples headng down the 18th. Couples comfortafly out-drove O'Connor which meant the Irishman was first to play into the final green. With Couples just needing a nine-iron for his approach to the green, O'Connor knew he would have to put it close from all of 240 yards away. Out came the two-iron, and the rest is history. O'Connor's ball came to rest some three feet from the pin and Couples shanked his approach to see the Irishman win the hole and the match. The score ended 14 points each for only the second time in the Cup's history.
7. 'War on the Shore', Kiawah Island, 1991
The 29th edition of the Cup at Kiawah Island was best known for bad feeling between the two teams, arguments and general displays of macho behaviour at its best. To add to the drama, the competition went down to the last hole as Bernhard Langer was playing against Hale Irwin in the Sunday singles. Langer, a typically unflappable German, missed a six-foot putt to win the Cup and Irwin jumped at the chance to halve the match which saw the Americans win back the Cup by the closest of margins, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
6. Brookline, 1999
America ended up winning the competition 14 1/2 to 13 1/2, but the 33rd Ryder Cup will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Dubbed the 'Battle of Brookline', Europe were leading 10-6 going into the final day singles matches.
Requiring only 4 points to retain the Cup, Europe hoped to get it wrapped up early on Sunday. The Americans had other ideas as they won the first six matches of the day. Jim Furyk claimed the USA's eighth singles point when he surprisingly beat Sergio Garcia, however the best, or should we say the worst, was yet to come. On the 17th green, Justin Leonard held an unlikely 45-foot putt which sparked scenes of wild jubilation from team mates, back-room staff, wives, girlfriends, and whoever could get on the green. The incident will be remembered as a piece of awful sportsmanship as Jose Maria Olazabal still had a putt to keep the European dream alive. Olazabal, clearly fazed by the celebrations, missed his putt and the rest is history.
5. 'The Greatest up and down in Ryder Cup history', Oak Hill Country Club, 1995
Nick Faldo, one of Europe's greatest Ryder Cup performers, was in a crucial singles match against Curtis Strange. Heading down the last all square, Faldo found himself in the rough off the tee. Strange promptly drove his ball straight dwon the middle of the fairway to put the pressure on Faldo. All the Englishman could do was advance his ball to put himself within a wedge of the green. Nestled in the right hand rough, which probably helped him, Faldo had to get up and down from 94 yards to stand any chance of winning the hole and the match and he put his wedge shot to within five-feet of the hole. Faldo went on to sink the putt, win the match and said that it was probably the best scrambled par he ever made.
4. Europe win the Cup - The Belfry, 1985
The 26th competition marked the first time the USA had failed to win the Ryder Cup in three decades. The late* Seve Ballesteros and Sam Torrance were the driving forces behind Europe's landmark victory.
Torrance trailed US Open Champion Andy North by three holes at one point and his comeback victory was the catalyst for Europe's win. Torrance holed an eighteen-foot putt to win the match on the 18th hole. Europe ended up winning 16 1/2 points to 11 1/2.
*In a tribute to Ballesteros, the Europe team will have an image of the great Spaniard on their Ryder Cup 2012 bags.
3. Darren Clarke's emothional display - The K Club, 2006
Darren Clarke was in the worst form of his career and ended up being a wildcard pick of captain, Ian Woosnam. A month before the Ryder Cup, Clarke's wife sadly passed away from cancer but the Irishman vowed to represent Europe in his country of birth.
Clarke proved to be an inspiration to the European team as he won all three of his matches, helping the home side to win 18 1/2 points to 9 1/2. Clarke beat Zach Johnson 3 and 2 in the singles and this sparked emotional scenes of celebration which culminated in Darren Clarke necking a pint of Guinness on the balcony of the clubhouse.
2. Seve's bunker shot - Palm Beach, 1983
The late Seve Ballesteros was touched with genius and he encapsualted what the Ryder Cup is all about. The entertainment and passion he brought to the game was second to none and his third shot on the 18th hole in his singles match against Fuzzy Zoeller summed up what the Spanish magician was all about.
Having squandered a three-hole lead, Ballesteros found himself all square going down the last against Zoeller. After a poor tee shot, Seve put his second shot in a fairway bunker, still some 245 yards away from the green. Most players would have laid up short of the water and tried to get down in two from there. Ballesteros was no ordinary player howvever, and to the disbelief of his opponents and team mates, he pulled a 3-wood from his bag. Not only did the Spaniard have water to get over, he had the lip of the fairway bunker to contend with. Ballesteros, showing his genius, cleared the lip and the water, and put his ball on the green. The Spaniard duly made his par and ended up halving the match with Zoeller. The US Captain, Jack Nicklaus, said it was 'the finest shot he had ever seen'.
1. The greatest piece of sportsmanship - Royal Birkdale, 1969
In older forms of the competition there were 32 points at stake and going into the final session of singles matches, Europe led the USA by 13 points to 11, needing just 3 1/2 points to win the Ryder Cup. America won 4 of the first 6 singles matches of the final session and the score was tied at 15 points each with two matches left. With the penultimate match halved, it all came down to the 18th hole of the match between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin.
Nicklaus, playing in his first Ryder Cup, sank a four-foot putt for par to pile the pressure on Jacklin, who had a two-foot putt to half the match. Nicklaus, in a piece of sportsmanship second to none, conceded Jacklin's putt which resulted in halving the hole and the match. Nicklaus said to Jacklin, "I don't think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances, I would never give you the opportunity." The competition ended up 16 points each and the U.S. retained the Ryder Cup.
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