The challenge of winning behind enemy lines

The winning Great Britain and Europe team in no order of Howard Clark, Sam Torrance, Ken Brown, Bernhard Langer, Severiano Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Jose Rivero, Gordon Brand Jnr, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle and Eamonn Darcy during the 27th Ryder Cup Matches on 27 September 1987 at the Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, USA. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Winning any Ryder Cup match is a hard-fought affair but winning on away soil makes the task all the tougher. Here’s three famous away wins to inspire Harrington’s boys in blue:

  • 1987 – Europe breaks America

When Europe arrived to Muirfield Village for the 27th Ryder Cup Match, they had lost 13 away contests on the spin. Winning on American soil had long looked like an insurmountable task until Captain Tony Jacklin arrived with a European side bolstered by the likes of World Number Two, Seve Ballesteros and Number Three, Bernhard Langer. 

In 1987, Team Europe took on the powerful USA side believing they could win and after the Friday and Saturday sessions, their belief looked justified – Europe racing to a five point advantage – 10½ – 5½ – and needing just four points in the Sunday singles. 

Of course, winning’s never easy, particularly given how the US excel in the singles format and true to form, the Americans mounted a comeback, winning five of the first seven matches. 

Cometh the hour, cometh an Irishman. In a Ryder Cup career spanning a dozen years, Eamonn Darcy would reserve his most crucial point for his match with Ben Crenshaw, beating the American on the final hole to turn the tide for Europe. 

Langer followed him in, halving his match with Larry Nelson before the stage was set for Seve himself, whose hatred for the Americans was well documented, to land the winning blow with a thunderous 2&1 victory over Curtis Strange. 

American were defeated 15-13 and Europe, buoyed by new-found belief, would retain the trophy won at The Belfry two years prior for the first time in history. 


  • Langer’s men deliver a drubbing at Oakland Hills 

By the time Bernhard Langer led a European invasion of Oakland Hills Country Club in 2004, Team Europe looked to have the measure of their often horrendously attired American counterparts. 

The ten-time capped Ryder Cupper knew his side were riding the crest of a wave, boosted by three wins in their past four matches. The unsavoury scenes at Brookline in 1999 had only added fuel to Europe’s fire but Langer remained the epitome of calm and his players followed his leadership. 

On the contrary, American skipper Hal Sutton seemed anything but cool, bizarrely selecting Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a supposed ‘dream team’ that proved to be the stuff of nightmares on an opening day where Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie claimed a 2&1 scalp before Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood came back from three-down in the foursomes to score a one-up win over the hapless U.S. pairing. Who would’ve thought two men with a deep dislike of each other wouldn’t get along?  

As Sutton’s experiment blew up in his face, Langer’s charges took control, 6½ – 1½ ahead after day one before taking a commanding 11-5 lead into the singles. 

Despite only needing 3 and a half points for the win, a US fightback in their preferred singles couldn’t be overruled. Actually, in 2004, it could. An uber confident Team Europe completed an 18½ – 9½ trouncing, the largest ever by a European side, sending the United States back to the drawing board with their tails between their legs.  

  • The Miracle at Medinah 

Few Ryder Cups could compare to the dramatic scenes at Medinah in 2012. Not just a great comeback in golf, this will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in sport, inspired by a postman, no less. 

At one point during proceedings, Europe’s fate looked sealed; 10-4 down and seemingly on the brink of defeat before Ian Poulter, alongside a relative passenger in Rory McIlroy, delivered five closing birdies to win a clutch point in the last fourball of the penultimate day – gifting his team a glimmer of hope to cling to. It would be a seed of belief that blossomed into arguably the greatest comeback the Cup’s ever seen. 

Luke Donald set the ball rolling for Europe in the singles, taking the first match against Bubba Watson 2&1. Scot Paul Lawrie, playing in the fifth singles game, put Europe’s second point on the board with a comprehensive dispatching of Brandt Snedeker 5&3 and from there the board turned blue, Poulter at it again with victory over Webb Simpson as Europe pulled clear. 

Jason Dufner would put some much-needed red on the board and draw the sides level at 13 points apiece but momentum was with the Europeans and a German ‘iceman’ in Martin Kaymer ensured the Cup would remain in Europe’s hand with an ice cool five-footer for a final hole win.  

All that was left was for Francesco Molinari to complete a most unlikely victory, halving his match with none other than Tiger Woods as Europe clinched a monumental and most unexpected 14½ – 13½ win. 

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