The European players and administrators cleared the air over drinks on the eve of the Ryder Cup, and they took it to the Americans like never before, particularly in the clutch. Fourteen of the 28 matches went to the final hole. Europe won seven of them and halved four others.
A newcomer to the European team was a young Spaniard named Jose Maria Olazabal, and thus began the fabled “Spanish Armada.” They won three of their four matches as Europe built a 10 1/2-5 1/2 lead, and the Americans never caught up. The height of their frustration came from “Gentle” Ben Crenshaw, who snapped his putter after six holes of his singles match with Eamonn Darcy and had to use a 1-iron or the blade of his sand wedge to putt the rest of the round. Darcy won, 1 up.
The lasting image is the European team celebrating from the balcony of the clubhouse that Nicklaus had built. It was an overthrow in so many ways.
1. THE WAR ON THE SHORE (1991)
This was the first Ryder Cup when one could argue the Americans really cared.
They had lost the Ryder Cup before, but not three successive times. The bad memory of these matches at Kiawah Island is that they lost the spirit under which they were meant to be played, starting with the moniker this Ryder Cup was given _ “The War on the Shore.” That was bound to happen. But this brought so many elements of what makes the Ryder Cup special. Great shots early on as both teams entered the final day tied at 8, and some shocking collapses coming down the stretch.
It came down to the final hole of the final match between Bernhard Langer and Hale Irwin. The Americans led 14-13. The match was all square. If Langer won the hole, the Ryder Cup would end in a tie and Europe would keep the cup. Irwin’s approach hit a spectator, he chipped weakly and made bogey. Langer’s 45-foot birdie attempt went some 6 feet past the hole. He settled in over his par putt, and leaned his head back and yelled when it narrowly missed.
It was gut-wrenching on both sides. It also was the first full network coverage in America. Since then, the Ryder Cup has become one of the toughest tickets in sport.