EUROPE recorded arguably the biggest golfing upset of all time when they beat the United States to retain the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village, Dublin, Ohio yesterday.
Needing only four points from the 12 singles after their dynamic performances over the first two days, Europe went through nail-biting drama before the world-ranked Berhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros secured the points for victory.
Langer came back from three down after 11 holes to tie with American PGA champion Larry Nelson while Ballesteros completed a magnificent series when he beat America’s top money winner Curtis Strange.
The biggest drama, however, surrounded Irishman Eamonn Darcy who came through by one hole against Ben Crenshaw, one of the most experienced opponents. It was the first time America had been beaten on their own soil in the Ryder Cup.
Most of America believed that Europe’s victory at the Belfry in 1985, breaking a 25-year losing run, was a flash in the pan. But this remarkable performance in the 27th Ryder Cup has proved beyond doubt that European golfers are the equal, if not better, than any others in the world.
Darcy, back on cup duty for the first time since 1981 and making his fourth appearance in the series, had played nine times before without a win.
He was left on the sidelines by the European captain, Tony Jacklin, on the opening day but brought in for his first outing in Saturday’s fourballs. He suffered yet another defeat and must have feared the worst when Crenshaw sank a 40-foot putt to take the lead against him on the first green.
Darcy, however, squared at the fourth and won the next two holes as well when Crenshaw needed three putts from 30 feet at the sixth.
As the American left the green he banged his putter angrily into the turf, the head and 12 inches of the shaft breaking off completely from the rest of the club. Under the rules Crenshaw was not allowed to replace the club and so during the rest of the round he had to putt with one of his irons.
Jack Nicklaus, the American captain heard of the dilemma and dashed out to meet his man at the eighth. “Now what are you going to do son,” he said. Crenshaw replied that he would try to get away with a 1-iron and it worked brilliantly as he came back from three down after 11 holes to lead one up with only two to play. It was nothing to do with his putting, however, which cost Crenshaw the last two holes and gave Darcy a famous victory.
Crenshaw chipped into a bunker at the 17th, with Darcy close for his birdie and the American then pulled his drive into a water hazard alongside the 18th fairway. Both men were in a green side bunker after that, but Darcy in one stroke fewer, and he bravely dribbled in a downhill putt of five feet for his par after Crenshaw had holed from slightly longer for a bogey.
It was appropriate that Ballesteros should confirm his status as world number one, finishing with the best record of any player on either side. He won four points from his five matches, but was closely followed by Nick Faldo, Langer and Ian Woosnam, all scoring 3 ½ points. Ballesteros won three of the first four holes against Strange, lost the 11th to be only two up, but then halved all the way in to make sure of Europe’s victory.
Langer was struggling for survival when he trailed by three to Nelson after 11 holes. But the West German, a tremendous fighter, put another dent in Nelson’s Ryder Cup record by winning three holes in succession and surprising the vast crowds on the last green by agreeing a half with both balls 18 inches from the flag. America completed a big comeback when Hal Sutton recovered from four down after ten holes to tie with Gordon Brand, but Nicklaus commented that the Europeans generally played the 18th hole better than the Americans.
That was certainly so in the case of two matches. Howard Clark left Dan Pohl crying when he won the last with a par 4 for a one up victory after his opponent had been in three bunkers on his way to the green. Then Sam Torrance, the hero of the last win two years ago, snatched a half out of his singles when Larry Mize drove into the water hazard at the last tee. TONY Jacklin, the European captain, looked back on “the greatest week of my life and possibly European golf” and said it could “change the course of world golf”.
“The American team do not need any sympathy,” he added. “They played their heart out and I am as proud of them as Jack is. There is no shame in losing. I don’t think anybody in America will ever need reminding again about what the Ryder Cup means.”
He also paid tribute to the American spectators. “You were fair and all the way down the line. When Jack and I finished we looked at each other in the eye, said well done and meant it.
Nicklaus said: “We singled out Ireland’s Eamonn Darcy for praise. He has never won a Ryder Cup match before but he will remember that putt as the most important of his life. It is tough to lose but I think our fellows will take it the right way and be only the better for it. There is not a whole lot more you could say when you are beaten by a team who played the superior golf.”