Trailing 9-7 overnight to Lanny Wadkins’ Team USA, Bernard Gallacher’s visiting team found their mojo in the final-day singles to prevent the expected American romp in upstate New York, setting in motion two decades of domination by the Europeans.
Rookie Phil Mickelson’s victory over Per-Ulrik Johansson was one of only four wins for the home team, future captains Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and Davis Love the others to hold up their end for the United States. Otherwise it was a tale of woe for Wadkins, whose captain’s pick Curtis Strange surrendered a 1-up lead over Nick Faldo with two holes to play, finishing bogey, bogey to complete a miserable, 0-3 weekend. And it was left to rookie Irishman Philip Walton to deliver the coup de grace for Europe, his 1-up win over Jay Haas helping them to just their second win on American soil.
The most contentious of Ryder Cup matches by a long stretch and dubbed “The War by the Shore”, the 1991 showdown was played against the backdrop of the first Gulf War and the Americans were gung-ho. None more so than future captain Paul Azinger, who caused an early flashpoint with Europe’s Seve Ballesteros. With the contest tied at 8-8 on Saturday night, US captain Dave Stockton controversially withdrew Steve Pate from the singles citing bruised ribs from a minor car accident on the eve of Ryder Cup week and in spite of Pate having played the previous day’s fourball match with Corey Pavin. On a weekend of tension it was another bone of contention between the two sides, ensuring Pate earned a half against David Gilford. It all came down a now notorious missed six-foot putt on the final green, Bernhard Langer the unlucky European who handed victory to Hale Irwin at the last and the Cup to the US.
The only Monday finish in Ryder Cup history after record rainfall in Wales played havoc at Celtic Manor. Yet it only added to the suspense, Europe winning only one session, a re-jigged affair comprising two foursomes and four fourballs that Colin Montgomerie’s team won by 5.5 to 0.5. It was the pivotal moment that nudged Europe in front and despite a final-day charge from the Americans it was Graeme McDowell who clinched an unlikely victory in the final singles match. The Irishman drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the 16th and when opponent Hunter Mahan duffed his chip at the next hole, reigning US Open champion McDowell had his 3&1 win to reclaim the Cup for Europe.
Another rancour-filled affair, this time in Boston as the United States engineered a remarkable final-day fightback, the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
On the Saturday night, as Mark James’s side enjoyed a 10-6 lead, US captain Ben Crenshaw uttered the words “I’ve got a good feeling about this”. His premonition became reality on a torrid Sunday, the Americans blitzing the early singles and Justin Leonard capping the most unlikely of victories when rifling home a 45-foot putt at the 17th to claim a half with Jose Maria Olazabal, the manic US celebrations souring relationships as team-mates, caddies, and wives stormed the green with three singles matches still to go through.
Europe’s Brookline moment and the most dramatic Ryder Cup victory of them all as Jose Maria Olazabal’s team performed the “The Miracle at Medinah”, recovering from a 10-4 deficit at one stage of Saturday evening’s play.
It was final two fourball matches that turned the tide, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald defeating Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker before the talismanic Ian Poulter, playing with Rory McIlroy, almost single-handedly delivered a one-hole victory over Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner with some electric putting in the Chicago twilight.
With Europe still trailing 10-6, the singles saw a US meltdown for Davis Love’s team as the Europeans roared back, winning the top five matches with some more clutch putting from Poulter and Justin Rose, in particular while McIlroy took down the American’s hottest player Keegan Bradley despite arriving late at the course and missing virtually all of his pre-round practice.
The most famous putt of the lot, though, belonged to Martin Kaymer, who clinched his point and Europe’s victory with his one-hole win over Stricker.