1969 - 1983
19691616Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, EnglandIn the closest contest to date in Ryder Cup history, 17 of the 32 matches went to the last hole. With the matches tied going into the final day, Great Britain won five of the eight morning singles. But the U.S. roared back, winning four of the first six afternoon matches to even the score. In Brian Huggett’s match against Billy Casper, Huggett made a four-foot putt to halve the match.
That left the Ryder Cup to be decided by the last group of Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus, who were deadlocked heading into the last hole. In one of golf’s most memorable moments of sportsmanship, Nicklaus, playing in his first Ryder Cup, made a four-foot comeback par putt, then conceded a two-foot par putt to Jacklin. Their halved match resulted in the first draw in the Ryder Cup, 16-16.
1971181/2131/2Old Warson Country Club, St. Louis, MissouriThe Great Britain & Ireland Team featured rookies Harry Bannerman, John Garner and Peter Oosterhuis. The Americans had rookies in Charles Coody, Mason Rudolph, J.C. Snead and Dave Stockton. Meanwhile, Lee Trevino made the squad despite having just a few weeks to recover from an appendectomy, and Billy Casper nursed a broken toe incurred while groping in the dark to find his hotel bathroom.
Casper didn’t play in the singles, but Trevino bounced back to form and finished 4-1 to help the U.S. to an 18.5 to 13.5 victory . In a rare rules violation, Bernard Gallacher’s caddie was so enamored by a tee shot by Arnold Palmer that he asked Palmer which club he had hit on the par- 3 seventh hole in a second-day foursomes match. Palmer replied, “A 5-iron.” A match referee, not Gallacher, overheard the exchange. Both teams had tied with pars before the referee called both teams aside. Palmer and partner Gardner Dickinson were awarded the hole to go 2-up in their match. Gallacher’s caddie had infringed upon Rule 9a, the giving of advice.
19731319Muirfield Golf Club, Muirfield, ScotlandThe host’s bid to end a seven-match U.S. winning streak took a fateful turn prior to the opening of the second-day foursomes. Great Britain & Ireland’s Bernard Gallacher, who had teamed for two important foursomes victories in a 5.5 to 2.5 GB&I advantage, contracted food poisoning.
Peter Butler was summoned from bed just 1.5 hours before his tee time to replace Gallacher and join teammate Brian Barnes. Butler responded by becoming the first player to record a hole-in-one in Ryder Cup history. He aced the par-3 16th hole in the morning foursomes, but U.S. opponents Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf claimed a 1-up victory. Butler and Barnes also fell in the afternoon four-balls, 2-up, to Arnold Palmer and J.C. Snead, as the Americans won, 19 to 13.
19752111Laurel Valley Golf Club, Ligonier, PennsylvaniaJack Nicklaus came into Laurel Valley Golf Club playing what he called “the best golf of my life.” Nicklaus had won his fifth Masters in April, his fourth PGA Championship in August and the World Open at Pinehurst, N.C. He led an impressive U.S. Ryder Cup Team that rolled to a 21-11 conquest. The margin would have been larger had England’s Brian Barnes not pulled the upset most historians point to as the biggest in Ryder Cup history. Barnes topped Nicklaus not once but twice in the singles matches. “You’ve beaten me once, but there ain’t no way you’re going to beat me again,” Nicklaus said to Barnes on the first tee before the afternoon singles. Nicklaus began with a pair or birdies for an early lead before Barnes again rallied and won, 2 and 1.
197771/2121/2Royal Lytham & St. Annes, St. Annes, EnglandThe Great Britain-Ireland Team had lobbied for another format change, reducing the number of matches by nearly a third and leaving 20 total points to be decided. This proved a disastrous move due to a 45-minute interval between starting times to accommodate television broadcasts. The USA Team quickly jumped out to an advantage by taking a 3.5 to 1.5 margin the opening day of foursomes and a 4-1 advantage in the second-day four-balls. Though the teams split the singles, 5-5, the U.S. had won its 10th straight Ryder Cup, this time by a margin of 12.5 to 7.5. England’s Sir Nick Faldo competed despite glandular fever and won all three of his matches. Fellow countryman Peter Dawson became the first left-hander to play for either team. This was the final Ryder Cup before a major upheaval took place that would produce unlimited popularity and competitive balance in the event.
During the 1977 Ryder Cup, officials of the PGA of America and the PGA of Great Britain conferred about allowing players from continental Europe into the competition. Jack Nicklaus made his own pitch for the change during the competition in a meeting with Lord Derby. The original Deed of Trust struck between Samuel Ryder and the PGA of Great Britain was amended, and a new era of Ryder Cup history was about to dawn in 1979.
19791711The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West VirginiaWith continental Europeans allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup, the final format change brought the total number of points to be decided to 28, with eight foursomes, eight four-balls, and 12 singles. The new European Team was bolstered by the play of Sir Nick Faldo, who finished 4-1, but it was America’s Larry Nelson who turned in a brilliant 5-0 performance. Nelson defeated Spain’s Seve Ballesteros in four of those meetings as the Americans won, 17 to 11.
Ballesteros was joined by fellow countryman Antonio Garrido as the first continental European Ryder Cup selections. It was the first Ryder Cup where each team would use the “envelope,” a process where each Captain inserted the name of a player in a sealed envelope in the event either team was reduced to 11 players due to injury or health reasons. The result was a half point for each team.
198191/2181/2Walton Heath Golf Club, Surrey, EnglandLarry Nelson continued his remarkable run with four more victories, nine over the last two Ryder Cups, to boost one of the strongest American Teams in Ryder Cup history. With 36 major championship victories on the U.S. side, they quickly gained the momentum it needed during a lopsided second day to win its 22nd consecutive Ryder Cup 18.5 to 9.5.
The Americans piled up a 7-1 record, ranked just behind the U.S. all-time record set in 1967 of a 7.5 to 0.5 margin in four-balls or foursomes for one day. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson teamed for three victories, and Nicklaus finished 4-0 overall. Germany’s Bernhard Langer made his Ryder Cup debut, as did Spain’s José María Canizares and Manuel Pinero. Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, who had won the 1980 Masters and had spent much of his competitive season away from the PGA European Tour, was voted out of the competition by the European Team.
1983141/2131/2PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, FloridaEurope came within inches of pulling off a Ryder Cup coup – its first victory on U.S. soil. England’s Tony Jacklin captained the Europeans and Jack Nicklaus guided the U.S. in to an 8-8 deadlock after two days. The teams were still tied after the first 10 singles matches.
Europe was buoyed by a variety of special performances, including Spain’s Seve Ballesteros, who halved with Fuzzy Zoeller, after a brilliant fairway bunker approach shot on the 18th hole. Ballesteros hit a 3-wood 240 yards from the bunker to the fringe of the green. He chipped and putted for par to secure the halve. Many observers still rate Ballesteros’ shot, under the circumstances, as one of golf’s greatest pressure shots.
Meanwhile, Lanny Wadkins fell 1-down to Spain’s José María Canizares going into the 18th hole, a par-5 dogleg left into the wind. Wadkins salvaged his team by hitting a 60-yard pitching wedge approach to within a foot of the hole to halve the match and secure the 14.5 to 13.5 win for the Americans.