While players can lose their cool from time to time, golf is usually seen as one of the most placid of sports. Sure, a ferocious roar can come from the crowd when a player sinks a putt on the 18th to win a Major, but, by and large, things are quite calm in comparison to team sports.
That, however, tends to go out the window during the Ryder Cup. It’s a chance for fans to get raucous and rowdy, throwing out the usual decorum to back either the USA or Europe. In the era of Brexit, not all British might feel like Europe is their homeland. But that, too, gets left aside for the weekend for the carnival atmosphere of the Ryder Cup.
The 2021 Ryder Cup will take place from Friday 24th – Sunday 26th September. Team USA is favourite with golf bookmakers to take back the Ryder Cup from Europe, with home advantage (the event will be held at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin) seen as crucial to a team’s chances.
And yet, more so than any golfing tournament, the odds matter not at all for the Ryder Cup. The momentum can swing with a single stroke, and the event is always full of shocks and surprises. In light of the upcoming event, which will surely be one of the most streamed sports events in September, we pick out five of the best moments from Ryder Cup history:
- The Miracle of Medinah 2012
Some fans – certainly older fans – claim “the concession” of 1969 (see below) was the greatest individual moment of the Ryder Cup, but what is now known as the miracle of Medinah surely takes top spot for modern audiences. It is not a moment as such, but a change in momentum exemplified by Ian Poulter’s five-birdie run to snatch a point for Europe when the Americans seemed out of reach at 10-4 up. Poulter’s heroics gave the Europeans belief, and a nail-biting finish saw Martin Kaymer hole a 6-footer to secure the unlikeliest of victories. It’s not just one of the great golfing comebacks – it’s one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
- Montgomerie at the Belfry 2002
You might think that Poulter’s performance at Medinah was the greatest ever at the Ryder Cup, but there are some considered more masterful. Ten years earlier, Colin Montgomerie dazzled the crowds at the Belfry, playing in five games and winning them all without ever going behind. The performance cemented Monty’s status as one of the best players never to win a Major. And, two years later, he would reinforce his legend as one of the great Ryder Cup players, too.
- The Dream Team at Waldon Heath 1981
We all know the Dream Team in basketball that went to the 1992 Olympics, but golf’s dream team appeared around ten years earlier. Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, and Tom Watson were among the US stars who formed one of the most formidable teams ever assembled at the Ryder Cup. Europe took a surprise lead in the tournament, but fairly soon, the Americans’ class showed as they stormed to victory.
- The Concession 1969
We mentioned earlier that the Ryder Cup tends to buck the trend of golf being a gentleman’s game – things really do get heated. However, it wasn’t always that way. Back in 1969, the unfancied European team battled all the way with the superior Americans. Tony Jacklin (Team Europe) faced a final putt to nick a half-point and secure a draw for Europe. Before Jacklin took his putt, Jack Nicklaus stuck out his hand and conceded the hole, ending the tournament with an honorable gesture. It’s so far removed from the cut-throat world of elite sports we see today.
- Seve at Valderrama 1997
Is there any player with a greater association with the Ryder Cup than Seve Ballesteros? The Spaniard embodied the competition across the 1980s, and he is arguably the reason it has become such a blue-chip event today. His high point came at his home course, Valderrama, in 1997, not as a player but as captain. Perhaps captain is the wrong word – Ballesteros was more like a chief motivator and cheerleader for Team Europe. He careered around the course in his golf cart, encouraging the Europeans and urging them on to a deserved victory. A special moment from one of the most beloved players in golf.