A look at the Ryder Cup from past players' perspective

Dave Senko, a media official on the Champions Tour, spoke to several past Ryder Cup participants from both the U.S. and Europe. Here's a look at what the players had to say.


As a former Ryder Cupper, what was your own favorite memory of playing in the event?

"I guess it would have to be at Kiawah. Number one it's the only one that we actually won even though I had a great time but then I had a bad time when I lost my last four holes to Monty (Colin Montgomerie). That one probably stands out the most as well as playing with Payne Stewart in the two morning alternate-shot matches. We just had a blast out there and I remember Payne on one hole all we had to do was two-putt from 10 feet but it was downhill putt and they didn't want to give it to me. I remember Payne comes up me and says "hit this easy, it's really fast. You don't have to make it just get it close and we win the hole." I said, "Yeah, yeah, I know man, I gotcha." I hit this thing and it went off my hands and it was going about eight feet by if it missed the hole but it went right in. He just pulled his hat down over his head and walked off to the next tee shaking his head.  I think that was on the 13th green and I'll never forget that."

Of all the Ryder Cups, is there one that stands out or you remember?

"I would say probably Sunday at Brookline. As a spectator on my couch and being down four points and I think Mark James didn't play three of his guys and then just sent them out there in singles. We got off to a fast start and we were chipping in and making putts. I think just the way the whole day unfolded is probably my favorite Ryder Cup memory."


What is your best memory of any of the Ryder Cups you played in?

"I think the first time you play in the Ryder Cup and the sense of pride for making the team to represent your country and wearing the colors is pretty special. I'll never forget people asking me if I was nervous and I remember the first day at Oak Hill in the practice round going out in the first group out for the Americans and I was playing with Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts and Peter Jacobsen. On the first tee was President Bush, just out of office, and Byron Nelson and I'm like, I can't think of anything that would make me nervous perhaps 20,000 people screaming red, white and blue. It was unbelievable and that's my best memory, the pride you had. Whether you win or lose how many people remember you as a Ryder Cupper and congratulate you for being on the team. It is a big accomplishment and all the guys should be very proud if they make the team."

Your best memory of any Ryder Cup you watched or remembered over the years.

"There are so many great memories. Davis' (Love III) putt at The Belfry when he was a rookie to win it for the American side. There were a lot of great moments on both sides, but I think Crenshaw's (Ben, 1999 U.S. captain) comeback has to be the most memorable day for the Americans. I would probably say Crenshaw's prediction and the comeback."


As a player do you have a special memory from playing in the Ryder Cup?

"You know there are kind of two different categories for when I was playing. It's the watching and the doing. As far as the watching, the two things that stick out the most are Bernhard (Langer) and Hale Irwin's match at Kiawah, watching that finish up and the other was I was up at the green at No. 18 at The Belfry in 1993 when Davis (Love III) made the putt to clinch the matches. Those are the two that come to my mind right away and I did some good stuff myself in the Ryder Cup individually. I chipped in on 18 on Saturday in the final match at The Belfry which was pretty exciting with everybody there watching and also when I got it up and down on 17 at Kiawah to win my first point ever in a Ryder Cup. That is always something I'll always remember as well.  

Is there a particular moment or event in any of the Ryder Cups you've played in or watched that you remember or one that stands out?

"I played in three and I was an assistant captain and captain. I think being captain was the most special of them all because it's a very unique situation and not many guys get to do that. There's been a lot of players but much fewer captains. To be a captain and just be around the guys and do all the things that you try to set up so that the team is ready to play and they have the least amount to worry about. It's a different role to play certainly but it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed that a lot."


As a former member of a Ryder Cup team, what was your best memory of your experience as a player?

"It was Sunday at Brookline.  We were way behind and we got up in the first four, five matches and it got loud and it stayed loud.  It was like being in a football stadium for five hours."

Anything that you remember most about your matches or anything?  What was your favorite all-time memory of any Ryder Cup?

"I can't remember what happened yesterday.  My memory was holing out on 17 to win my match.  It was a lag putt that I had been given a couple times during the day, and I wouldn't have given it to me either on the last hole.  I remember my hands were shaking and I made it.  It was about two feet, but I literally was shaking. It was to win the match."


As a former member of a Ryder Cup team, what was your best memory of your experience as a player?

"Probably the first memory that you have of the Ryder Cup, you see it on TV many times and it's just taking it all in.  And to be teamed up with Tony Jacklin at the time as a partner was another sort of boy hero for me, and it almost seemed surreal. I was the first of the team really that we had the European Tour players involved in the Ryder Cup matches and I could see them at the matches when they started to get a lot closer.  They had a great bunch of names, good depth to the team and not many afterwards.  In Columbus, Jack Nicklaus was the captain, we had the victorious team and that was a great moment to be around and playing, and playing with Langer as my partner at the time. Those are kind of the two big memories that I have.  Not to be on the losing team for a change, but to see that the matches were going to be a lot closer.  It turned the whole Ryder Cup thing around, because at one time it was losing a little bit of its flavor because it was very much one?sided.  Great Britain and Ireland were really not a strong enough team, even though Ireland in the last 10 years has produced a lot of major champions, but you just don't know what's ahead of you.  With Europe being involved, I think it's worldwide now.  It's a very, very known name in the Ryder Cup and it's still there.

Do you have a favorite Ryder Cup, like one that stands out of all the Ryder Cups?

"There are two main matches for me that stick very clearly in my mind.  One was the bittersweet one where I was on the losing end was the game against Kite at Walton Heath where we played last year in the British Open Seniors.  I was like 6?, 7?under after about 11 holes and gaining nothing.  I was down.  When I got beat 3 & 2, I was somewhere like 6? or 7?under and got beat 3 & 2 by Tom Kite.  Everybody was kind of doing well at about level or 1?under, and I'm shooting lights out but got beat.  That's Ryder Cup match play for you. The other one was more the sweet side of it was when I was partnered with Langer for one day, morning and afternoon, against Lanny Watkins and Larry Nelson.  We were victorious morning and afternoon.  But Lanny Watkins still talks about it even now 15 or 20 years on, that you realize, guys, I played the last five holes in 4? or 5?under and we lost ground, things like that.  We had some great matches there, very memorable, but on sort of the sweet side for us, and Langer, who was a tremendous partner himself.  Very memorable, that time, because winning for us overseas to beat the Nicklaus team on his own course was very, very rewarding for us.


Do you have a memory that stands out for you in all the Ryder Cups you've played on?

"I played on 10 Ryder Cup teams and obviously was on the winning team five times and on the losing team five times.  If I have to pick one, I would say Midfield Village because it was the first time we won on U.S. soil for a very, very long time.  And then my captaincy as well in 2004 when I was Ryder Cup at that point in time in Detroit, Oakland Hills.  Those two were just extremely special weeks."

Was there one of all the Ryder Cups, any one that stands out for you just from a total Ryder Cup standpoint that you remember?

"Well, there were several that stood out.  Again, Midfield Village because it was Jack Nicklaus' home course and the U.S. team had played there many times; we hadn't, we didn't know the course as well. Then I remember a couple shots there.  I was paired with Sandy Lyle, I think, against Lanny Wadkins, and I'm not sure whether it was Tom Kite or somebody else.  We were like 1?up going into 18 and Lanny stiffs his 7?iron, just knocks it like two feet from the hole and the crowd went absolutely nuts.  Then it was me last to hit and I hit 8?iron and I hit it inside of Lanny to secure the point, you know, something like that. Obviously Kiawah stood out in a way, too, where things got slightly out of hand and I missed that putt.  And then the captaincy at Oakland Hills was pretty unique."


As a former member of a Ryder Cup team, what was your best memory of your experience as a player?

"One of the things I remember was Tom Watson being the captain and being over in England, and with his success and all the things he's accomplished over there, my wife told us, me and everyone else, there was no way we were going to lose, not with Tom Watson as captain. Just the whole week was fantastic.  I guess me beating Seve in the singles, for me personally.  Just the whole experience, it was real positive.  And of course we won, which makes it a lot nicer, being the underdog.  I remember Tom saying "Silence is golden," which meant if they weren't screaming and cheering, we were winning, and that's what happened Sunday afternoon.  As far as golf, it was a highlight of my golf, no question."

Do you have, outside of your own memory, anything of that, anything like you have a favorite Ryder Cup memory of any of the Ryder Cups?  Anything you remember most?

"Well, I mean, mine was for me, but obviously the putt Justin Leonard made at The Country Club was ?? every time we watch it, it's amazing how the level of golf gets better, just rises.  That's the amazing part of it, how good guys actually perform under the pressure because now it's even more pressure than what we played and that's been almost 20 years, I guess.  So, I mean, it's amazing how good the play is under those conditions.  That's the thing that really struck out to me is how good people played under that kind of pressure."


As a former member of a Ryder Cup team, what was your best memory of your experience as a player?

"I was at Oak Hill in Rochester and that was a really disappointing loss for us since we had a lead going into Sunday into the singles and it was very disappointing. What I remember was the match Corey Pavin and I had with Faldo and Langer and Corey chipping in on 18.  That's probably the most memorable, beat them 1?up and it was a great match.  That's kind of what I remember most about that. Of all Ryder Cups, I think for me personally, the best part about it is opening ceremonies where you march in and they play the national anthem and the planes fly over.  That's what I get all choked up about because I love my country so much.  That's the greatest part about it for me is really kind of the opening ceremonies.  Then obviously golf is a whole different part.  I really remember the match that Corey and I had with Faldo and Langer on Saturday afternoon.

Do you have a favorite Ryder Cup memory over all of all the Ryder Cups that stand out?

"For watching?  Yeah, the last time it was any good, which was when we won, you know.  It was nice to win in Kentucky, and I'm hoping that will happen again because I can't think of a better city for us to get a W again would be in Chicago because of the fan base there.