Ryder Cup: Miracle at Medinah, Clarke's comeback and Olazabal's miss – the competition's most memorable moments

By Sports Desk September 20, 2021

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup is almost upon us. A year later than initially planned, the finest golfers Europe and the United States have to offer will do battle at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington's team will be looking to defend the title Europe clinched in Paris three years ago, while Steve Stricker's men will hope to make home advantage count as the USA look to win the tournament for only the third time since the turn of the century.

Ahead of the action in Wisconsin, Stats Perform looks back at some of the most memorable moments from tournaments gone by.

 

Miracle at Medinah, 2012

Where else to start other than a moment that is widely considered to be one of sport's greatest ever fightbacks. The "Miracle at Medinah" took place in Illinois nine years ago, with the Chicago crowd witnessing a remarkable European recovery, inspired by Ian Poulter – who will be playing again this weekend.

Europe were 4-10 down heading into the final day, with the USA needing just 4.5 points to win. Yet Poulter, who won all of his matches, got the ball rolling for the visiting team, who took 8.5 points from a possible 12 on the Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner offered the hosts hope, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer won their matches to leave Tiger Woods needing to beat Francesco Molinari to secure a tie. The round was halved, ane Europe triumphed 14.5 to 13.5.

 

Battle of Brookline, 1999

Thirteen years prior to the Miracle at Medinah, the USA forged an incredible comeback of their own at Brookline, Massachusetts. Europe held a 10-6 lead heading into the final round, yet were pegged back as the USA, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd that riled some of the European players, with Colin Montgomerie coming in for particularly strong treatment, won the first six matches of Sunday's play.

Yet the decisive moment came when Jose Maria Olazabal – who would go on to lead Europe to victory at Medinah - lost three successive holes to Justin Leonard when he had been four up with seven to play. The match was tied on the 15th when the American holed a 40-foot putt, and on the 17th, Leonard struck a brilliant birdie, with the US team and fans storming onto the green in celebration as the half-point required to complete the comeback was secured. Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt to make to send the match to the 18th, only for the Spaniard's effort to trickle wide.

Torrance ends US dominance, 1985

The Belfry is entrenched in Ryder Cup history and, in 1985, Europe earned their first win in what was the fourth attempt since the team had spread to include the continent and not just players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve Ballesteros was in exceptional form, but it was left to captain Sam Torrance to sink a 22-foot putt, inflicting the United States' first defeat since 1957.

Clarke leads emotional European victory, 2006

Having taken a three-month break from golf following the loss of his wife, Heather, to cancer, Darren Clarke was named as a wildcard pick by Europe captain Ian Woosnam for the 2006 Ryder Cup, hosted in Clarke's native Northern Ireland at the K Club.

Clarke produced a performance for the ages, winning both of his pairs matches and going on to defeat Zach Johnson in his singles game. "I doubt there was a dry eye in the house," said Clarke afterwards, as Europe went on to secure an 18.5-9.5 win.

 

Langer fluffs his lines, 1991

Possibly the tightest Ryder Cup contest in history came at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the US taking a slim lead into the final day. However, by the time the final match rolled around, they needed half a point to reclaim the title.

It came down to the final hole, too. Bernard Langer required to hole a six-foot putt to tie his match with Hale Irwin, and Europe would keep their hands on the trophy. Yet he failed to do so, the ball rolling off the lip and away, with the US triumphing for the first time since 1983.

The concession, 1969

The Ryder Cup had been dominated by the United States from the end of World War II, with Great Britain (as the team was then) winning only one, in 1957.

However, the first tie in the Ryder Cup was recorded at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when American great Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole – the moment going down as one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship. 

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