History
Tony Jacklin
History

Europe

September 27, 1987 - An away win at last

The United States arrive at Le Golf National this week seeking a first Ryder Cup victory away from home in 25 years but there has been a winless streak for a visiting team much longer than that one.

After the Americans won the first ever Ryder Cup in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, they went on to win the next 13 contests on home soil, a run that lasted 60 years.

That streak was ended on September 27, 1987 when Europe tasted victory at Muirfield Village and in the process secured back-to-back victories for the first time.

Continental European players had entered the fray in 1979 to help break America's stranglehold on the Cup and while 1985's victory showed that the Europeans could win, the triumph two years later truly showed the playing field had been levelled and laid the foundation for a modern, competitive rivalry.

The 1987 Ryder Cup also saw the birth of the most successful pairing in European Ryder Cup history when Tony Jacklin put the great Seve Ballesteros alongside one of his Captain's Picks, another Spaniard in the shape of rookie José María Olazábal.

The Americans arrived in Ohio with three of 1987's Major Championship winners and a Captain with intimate knowledge of the course - Jack Nicklaus had designed it himself.

But Europe got off the plane with the confidence brought from having the trophy in their hands and also the newly crowned Open Champion in Nick Faldo.

America got off to a fast start, taking the first two foursomes matches but that was all the success they would have all day as Europe gained momentum thanks to wins for Ballesteros and Olazábal and Faldo and Ian Woosnam.

Ballestros and Olazábal took down the pair of Larry Nelson and Payne Stewart, with Nelson playing his first Ryder Cup since 1981 having previously won nine points from nine matches.

Faldo and Woosnam were four down in their match against Lanny Wadkins and Larry Mize but pulled a two up win out of the bag and the momentum helped carry Europe to their first ever clean sweep in the afternoon fourballs.

Gordon Brand Jnr and José Rivero defeated Ben Crenshaw and Scott Simpson 3 and 2, Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer took down Andy Bean and Mark Calcavecchia one up and Faldo and Woosnam, and Ballesteros and Olazábal claimed 2 and 1 wins over  Hal Sutton and Dan Pohl, and Curtis Strange and Tom Kite respectively.

Lyle and Langer would claim two more wins on Saturday, with Faldo and Woosnam winning 1½ points and Ballesteros and Olazábal claiming one more as Europe took a five-point lead into the singles.

The Americans ramped up the tension on Sunday as they reduced the gap to one and the task of releasing it fell to Eamonn Darcy, a man who had not won a full point in three previous Ryder Cup apperances.

Opponent Ben Crenshaw had snapped his putter and spent the majority of the match playing with a one iron on the greens but he was still one up with two to play. Darcy hit a stunner into the 17th to level things up and when he holed a slippery six-footer on the last, it was 13-11 and Jacklin rushed to embrace the Irishman.

Ballesteros ended up holing the winning putt to prompt possibly the most famous celebration in Ryder Cup history - Olazábal's joyful jig.

History would go on to repeat itself a few times after 1987: Ballesteros and Olazábal would emulate Faldo and Woosnam in claiming 3½ points as a pair in the next two Ryder Cups, Europe would sweep the Friday afternoon fourballs for the second year running in 1989 and they would taste victory on American soil in 1995, 2004 and 2012.

But never again would the stars align and produce a Ryder Cup quite like 1987.