Spanish ties run deep in Ryder Cup folklore
When legendary Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, recognised fondly by fans for his charisma and swashbuckling style, approached the first tee with countryman Antonio Garrido by his side at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, on September 14, 1979, it was a moment that changed The Ryder Cup forever.
The decision to include continental players in a European Ryder Cup team, following a series of one-sided results in favour of the United States, was embraced openly by Ballesteros, who would go on to play in eight Ryder Cups as a player, winning 20 points from 37 matches.
It was the Spanish duo of Ballesteros and José Maria Olazábal that formed one of the greatest Ryder Cup partnerships ever witnessed and transformed highlight reels forever, winning 11, halving two and losing only two of their matches together.
Since this formidable partnership, there have been many celebrated Spaniards but none more influential than Sergio Garcia. A veteran of seven Ryder Cups, Garcia has won 20½ points from those appearances and remains the youngest player to represent Europe, aged 19 and 258 days when he took to the tee for his maiden appearance in 1999 at The Country Club, in Massachusetts.
It has been 17 years since Garcia first experienced the imposing first tee of a Ryder Cup, an atmosphere described by many as both electrifying and nerve-wracking at the same time, and emotions will be running at a high when he joins friend and idol Ballesteros at the top of the Spanish representation list on his eighth outing next week.
Since those early days, Garcia has been an invaluable team member, compiling twice as many victories as he has losses. The 36 year old was unbeaten over the first two days at The K Club in 2006 – in the process, he became only the second player after Ian Woosnam to win all four points from his foursomes and fourball matches.
Two years earlier, he became the sixth player to claim 4½ points out of a possible five at Oakland Hills and was one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice captains at Celtic Manor in 2010, when Europe won by a point.
The great thing about the experienced Garcia, an 11-time European Tour champion, is that he has the ability to partner with anyone, and the perfect fit could be joining forces with close friend Rafa Cabrera Bello when his compatriot makes his debut at Hazeltine National.
Cabrera Bello has enjoyed a fantastic season on the European Tour, posting six top ten finishes and making the cut in all 15 appearances. The Canary Islander’s reward sees him etched into the history books as the tenth Spaniard to represent Europe in The Ryder Cup.
One of the most consistent players in recent years, having only finished outside the top 60 in The Race to Dubai once in the last seven seasons, he claimed his second European Tour victory in 2012 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where he held off Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood.
Spain played host to the first Ryder Cup to be held on continental Europe in 1997 at Club de Golf Valderrama, where Ballesteros was again involved, this time captaining Europe to a famous win.
It was here where Ignacio Garrido followed in his father Antonio’s footsteps by representing Europe and, in the process, the Garridos became just the second father and son combination to have played in The Ryder Cup after Percy and Peter Alliss.
The Spanish influence extends beyond their current players with arguably Europe’s most famous comeback victory in the history of the event, the so-called Miracle at Medinah, led by an inspired Captain Olazábal four years ago.
The first Ryder Cup since the passing of his close friend and Ryder Cup legend Ballesteros, the 2012 edition proved an emotional week , with the entire team clearly emboldened by the spirit of the man who inspired so many to play the game across the world.