The greatest moments in Ryder Cup history

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

September 21st, 2021

The Ryder Cup is one of the most compelling competitions in all of sports.

With no money to play for, it is all about pride and passion. It’s not about setting the lowest 72-hole score. It’s about going eye-to-eye with your opponent and coming out on top. It’s raucous crowds and high-pressure moments leading to ecstasy and agony.

To celebrate the most exciting three consecutive days in golf, here are five of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history.

5. Darren Clarke’s emotional win (2006)

The Ryder Cup can inspire some of golf’s best moments, but none were more touching than this one in 2006.

Held at the K Club in Ireland, it was the scene of an incredible performance from Darren Clarke. His wife, Heather, died just six weeks earlier, but European captain Ian Woosnam gave Clarke a call and offered him the captain’s pick. Heather had told Clarke not to turn it down.

Clarke went 3-0 in a performance that Tiger Woods called “inspirational.” Clarke partnered with Lee Westwood to beat Phil Mickelson and Chris Di Marco in the first match of the Friday four-balls, and the duo won again Saturday, with a defeat of Woods and Jim Furyk.

On Sunday, Clarke beat Zach Johnson to help secure Europe a 18.5-9.5 win, in one of the most emotional weekends of his career.

4. The Concession (1969)

The 1969 Ryder Cup in England was marred by unsportsmanlike behavior and a rivalry that at times boiled over between the two sides. It escalated to the point that, on Saturday, the captains were instructed to calm their players.

With the score tied 16-16, Jack Nicklaus was playing against Britain’s Tony Jacklin, and we witnessed "the Concession." On the 18th hole, Jacklin had a missable three-foot putt, but Nicklaus picked up Jacklin’s marker and gave him the putt, which meant the first draw in the Ryder Cup.

It was one of the game’s greatest moments of sportsmanship, and the two have been close friends ever since.

3. The celebration at the “Battle of Brookline” (1999)

The Europeans led 10-6 heading into the final round at The Country Club in Brookline, and they needed just four points on the final day to retain the Ryder Cup.

But the Americans won the first six single matches to surge into the lead. Padraig Harrington stopped the rot, but Steve Pate gave a 13-10 advantage to Team USA.

With two matches left on the course, the Americans led, 14-12, and needed a half-point to win. Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazabal were level on the 17th hole, when Leonard holed a 40-foot putt to spark wild scenes. The team, wives, and cameramen stormed the green to celebrate and interfered with Olazabal, who still had his 25-foot putt to draw. When order was restored, he missed, and the crowd continued the frenzy.

After the tournament, Colin Montgomerie said his father left the course because of the abuse he received, and Mark James claimed his wife was abused. Vice captain Sam Torrance described Team USA’s behavior as disgusting, and even the Los Angeles Times said the U.S. "violated every principle of proper golf decorum and decent manners."

2. Justin Rose’s putt in the “Miracle at Medinah” (2012)

The Miracle at Medinah is one of sport’s greatest comebacks, and one of the most memorable moments was Justin Rose’s long putt against Phil Mickelson.

Team USA had a 10-6 lead going into the final day, but Luke Donald, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy, and Ian Poulter all won Sunday to make it 10-10.

Dustin Johnson restored America’s lead, before Justin Rose’s thrilling win over Mickelson. Mickelson had a one-shot lead as they got to the 17th, then chipped to gimme distance to get the Chicago crowd fired up. But Rose holed a snaking 25-foot putt to level the match, then made a 15-footer on the 18th to win the match and make it 11-11.

Those two putts swung the momentum Europe’s way, and it won, 14.5-13.5.

1. Bernard Langer’s miss at “War on the Shore” (1991)

It was another boisterous atmosphere in South Carolina, as the U.S. looked to win its first Ryder Cup since 1983.

It was a nip-and-tuck battle the whole way, with neither team able to build much of a lead without the other side pulling it back.

The U.S. had a 14-13 lead, and the Cup came down to the final hole in the final match, between Hale Irwin and Bernard Langer. Langer needed to win the 18th to secure a point and level the competition, 14-14, which would have allowed Europe to retain the Ryder Cup.

Irwin made a sloppy bogey, which gave Langer a six-foot putt to win the Ryder Cup. But Langer’s putt stayed above ground, which sparked wild, rowdy scenes from the Americans.