The American Ryder Cup teams of the 60’s and 70’s were dominant. The US held the Cup from 1959 until losing it to Team Europe in 1985 at The Belfry. Europe would keep the cup in tense matches in 1987 and 1989. Tensions, and pressure, were at an all-time high by 1991 at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. The “War on the Shore” was intensely played by both sides.
Paul Azinger and Seve Ballesteros were known for their feuding during Ryder Cup Matches. Gamesmanship from the 1989 matches carried right into the ’91 contest with each player jabbing the other during the first day’s foursome matches, apparent “clearing of throats” during backswings, questioning whether or not they were playing the correct ball and flat-out accusations of breaking rules or even cheating marring the day. Ballesteros famously said after the match “The American Team has 11 nice guys. And Paul Azinger.”
The matches culminated in one of the single most dramatic putts in the history of golf. With only one singles-match remaining, Hale Irwin of the American team, and Bernhard Langer of the Europeans, came to the last hole tied, and the Americans up by 1 point. The European team could keep the cup if Langer won the hole. Both players struggled under the immense pressure. Langer had a 6-foot putt for par and Irwin an 18-inch putt for bogey. Langer conceded Irwin’s bogey, to the surprise of his teammates. And that left Langer in a must-make position. Langer missed, the match was halved and the US Team took the cup back. Players on both sides were driven to public tears by the pressure of the matches on the final day.
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