Leonard sent his putt up the slope, and while it was on a good line, it also had plenty of speed and likely would have gone some 6 feet by. It dropped swiftly into the back of the cup and set off the biggest celebration of the day _ too much of a celebration when players and wives charged across the green, even though Olazabal still had a birdie putt to halve the hole. When order was restored, Olazabal missed, and the Americans had won the Ryder Cup. Leonard’s putt made the difference.
“I think the ball was just destined to go in,” Leonard said.
3. THE 2-IRON BY CHRISTY O’CONNOR AT THE BELFRY
The matches were tied at 10 as the Sunday singles were just starting to unfold in 1989 at The Belfry when Europe regained control by winning four straight matches on the 18th. Perhaps the most significant of all was Christy O’Connor Jr. against Fred Couples.
O’Connor had not played in the Ryder Cup in 14 years. He had never won a match, and this looked like a losing cause when he was 1 down to Couples with three to play. O’Connor made birdie on the 16th to square the match, and both found the fairway on the 18th.
That’s when the Irishman delivered the shot of his life. It was a 2-iron from 229 yards that he fired fearlessly at the flag and watched it settle 4 feet from the cup. It shook Couples so badly that he missed the green with a 9-iron and took three to get down from there. O’Connor knocked in the birdie putt, and tears filled his eyes.
Jose Maria Canizares won the 18th in the match behind him, assuring Europe would keep the cup.
“The best I have ever played under pressure,” O’Connor said of his 2-iron. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”
2. PAUL AZINGER’S SHOT OUT OF THE ROUGH AT THE BELFRY
Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger rarely played a Ryder Cup match that didn’t include fireworks, from either their shots or their words. The opening singles match in 1989 at The Belfry was no different, especially when it reached the 18th hole with Azinger clinging to a 1-up lead.
The American, who had teamed with Chip Beck to beat the powerful European tandem of Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam in fourballs, knew he only had to halve the final hole to win a point. And he promptly hooked his tee shot into the water. Azinger took a drop, lucky that the ball sat up in the rough instead of plopping into a depression, but it looked no less bleak with Ballesteros in the fairway.
He had 232 yards and had to carry two sections of the water. Azinger used a baffler _ what today would be a version of a hybrid _ and smashed it out of the rough, over the water and into the bunker. Ballesteros realized he could no longer afford to lay up, so he went for the green and found the water.
Ballesteros wound up holing a 35-foot putt for bogey to make it interesting, though Azinger is one of the best from the bunker. After that great recovery, he splashed out of the bunker to 4 feet and made bogey to halve the hole and win the match.