‘I saw the putt, I saw what I had to do’
Irish golfers have certainly made their mark on the Ryder Cup. Here, some of those moments are recalled
Christy O’Connor jnr
The Belfry 1989
Christy O’Connor jnr went in as the underdog in his singles match with Fred Couples, a future Masters champion and a player who would go on to occupy the world number one position in the official rankings.
On that Sunday morning, O’Connor’s nerves weren’t helped by reading a newspaper article which pretty much wrote off his chances of taking on the American. “I felt terrible when I read it,” he later acknowledged.
As it happened, O’Connor held his nerve impressively with his iconic two-iron approach to four feet on the 18th hole, providing what the Galway man describes as “the greatest and most emotional moment of my professional life”.
The two-iron shot, from 235 yards over water, was the shot of O’Connor’s life and gave Europe the point needed to retain the trophy. Couples, who had outdriven O’Connor throughout the match, had only a nine-iron for his approach to the last, but he fell to the pressure applied on him by the Irishman.
With arms raised to the heavens and tears pouring down his face, O’Connor’s shot secured him a special place in Ryder Cup history.
The Belfry 2002
Paul McGinley’s debut appearance in the Ryder Cup could not have worked out any better, as he rolled in a 12-footer for a halved match on the final green of his singles with Jim Furyk to ensure Europe’s victory.
Furyk very nearly holed out with his bunker shot before McGinley pitched to 12 feet, needing to hole the par putt to secure the half point. As he studied the putt with his caddie JP Fitzgerald, the Dubliner immediately saw it in his mind.
“I saw the putt, I saw what I had to do. I saw the line, I saw the speed. I thought, ‘I have it’. I actually drew it into the slope, that’s how much feel I had. I knew I was going to hit a great putt. I hit this putt and, as putts go, it couldn’t be any purer. There was no way in the world it could miss.”
McGinley’s reaction to holing the putt that won the match for Europe still brings a smile to his face. “I saw Sergio [Garcia] jumping up and down and that led to that stupid jump I was doing.”
The K Club 2006
Darren Clarke, who had lost his first wife Heather to breast cancer just months earlier, was a wild card pick by captain Ian Woosnam for the Ryder Cup at The K Club in 2006.
From his opening tee shot on the first hole on the Friday, Clarke’s presence was a hugely emotional one, from the time that Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, his American opponents on that first day, joined in the applause along with the crowd to welcome Clarke on to the first tee.
Clarke didn’t get to hole the winning putt at The K Club. That honour fell to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. However, Clarke – who was unbeaten in his three matches – defeated Zach Johnson at the par 5 16th hole to set off one of the loudest and most emotional images of the Ryder Cup as he looked to the sky with tears in his eyes to acknowledge his late wife. Europe claimed a 18½ to 9½ points win over the United States.
Celtic Manor 2010
Graeme McDowell, who had won the US Open at Pebble Beach earlier in the season, became Europe’s hero in a weather-marred match at Celtic Manor that stretched into a Monday finish.
Europe had taken a three-point lead into the final day’s singles, but the Americans mounted a fantastic fightback. The teams were level at 13½ points apiece with just one match left on the course – G-Mac against Hunter Mahan.
McDowell showed his tenacity with a birdie to win the 16th, which put him two up with two holes to play, and then closed the deal on the 17th where Mahan duffed his chip.
“I just remember standing on the 17th green being surrounded by 10,000 people shouting and screaming and wondering, ‘what do I do now?, where am I going?’ It was just nuts, and you know, it was just definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it was great for golf and great for the Ryder Cup.”