Ryder Cup: Miracle at Medinah, Clarke's comeback and Olazabal's miss – the competition's most memorable moments

By Sports Desk September 20, 2021

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup is almost upon us. A year later than initially planned, the finest golfers Europe and the United States have to offer will do battle at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington's team will be looking to defend the title Europe clinched in Paris three years ago, while Steve Stricker's men will hope to make home advantage count as the USA look to win the tournament for only the third time since the turn of the century.

Ahead of the action in Wisconsin, Stats Perform looks back at some of the most memorable moments from tournaments gone by.

 

Miracle at Medinah, 2012

Where else to start other than a moment that is widely considered to be one of sport's greatest ever fightbacks. The "Miracle at Medinah" took place in Illinois nine years ago, with the Chicago crowd witnessing a remarkable European recovery, inspired by Ian Poulter – who will be playing again this weekend.

Europe were 4-10 down heading into the final day, with the USA needing just 4.5 points to win. Yet Poulter, who won all of his matches, got the ball rolling for the visiting team, who took 8.5 points from a possible 12 on the Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner offered the hosts hope, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer won their matches to leave Tiger Woods needing to beat Francesco Molinari to secure a tie. The round was halved, ane Europe triumphed 14.5 to 13.5.

 

Battle of Brookline, 1999

Thirteen years prior to the Miracle at Medinah, the USA forged an incredible comeback of their own at Brookline, Massachusetts. Europe held a 10-6 lead heading into the final round, yet were pegged back as the USA, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd that riled some of the European players, with Colin Montgomerie coming in for particularly strong treatment, won the first six matches of Sunday's play.

Yet the decisive moment came when Jose Maria Olazabal – who would go on to lead Europe to victory at Medinah - lost three successive holes to Justin Leonard when he had been four up with seven to play. The match was tied on the 15th when the American holed a 40-foot putt, and on the 17th, Leonard struck a brilliant birdie, with the US team and fans storming onto the green in celebration as the half-point required to complete the comeback was secured. Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt to make to send the match to the 18th, only for the Spaniard's effort to trickle wide.

Torrance ends US dominance, 1985

The Belfry is entrenched in Ryder Cup history and, in 1985, Europe earned their first win in what was the fourth attempt since the team had spread to include the continent and not just players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve Ballesteros was in exceptional form, but it was left to captain Sam Torrance to sink a 22-foot putt, inflicting the United States' first defeat since 1957.

Clarke leads emotional European victory, 2006

Having taken a three-month break from golf following the loss of his wife, Heather, to cancer, Darren Clarke was named as a wildcard pick by Europe captain Ian Woosnam for the 2006 Ryder Cup, hosted in Clarke's native Northern Ireland at the K Club.

Clarke produced a performance for the ages, winning both of his pairs matches and going on to defeat Zach Johnson in his singles game. "I doubt there was a dry eye in the house," said Clarke afterwards, as Europe went on to secure an 18.5-9.5 win.

 

Langer fluffs his lines, 1991

Possibly the tightest Ryder Cup contest in history came at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the US taking a slim lead into the final day. However, by the time the final match rolled around, they needed half a point to reclaim the title.

It came down to the final hole, too. Bernard Langer required to hole a six-foot putt to tie his match with Hale Irwin, and Europe would keep their hands on the trophy. Yet he failed to do so, the ball rolling off the lip and away, with the US triumphing for the first time since 1983.

The concession, 1969

The Ryder Cup had been dominated by the United States from the end of World War II, with Great Britain (as the team was then) winning only one, in 1957.

However, the first tie in the Ryder Cup was recorded at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when American great Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole – the moment going down as one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship. 

Related items

  • Morikawa closing in world number one status after seizing control in the Bahamas Morikawa closing in world number one status after seizing control in the Bahamas

    Collin Morikawa is close to overtaking Jon Rahm as the world's top golfer after opening up a five-stroke lead ahead of the final round of the Hero World Challenge.

    A victory for the two-time major winner in the Bahamas will see him follow Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in becoming the fourth person to become world number one before turning 25.

    Morikawa started Saturday's session at Albany Golf Club as one of three players a stroke behind leader Bryson DeChambeau after an unfortunate bogey on the final hole on day two.

    DeChambeau's lead quickly evaporated with a bogey on the opening hole, however, and the American struggled with three more bogeys on the back nine to finish one-over-par for the day as he slipped down to ninth.

    Open champion Morikawa took full advantage by firing an eight-under 64 in a round that included six birdies and an eagle chip-in on the par-five third.

    Morikawa, who last month became the first American to win the Race to Dubai with a victory at the DP World Tour, is now 18-under after 54 holes on the 20-man field.

    Fellow American Brooks Koepka shot 69, his only blemish a double-bogey on the par-three eighth, to move into second place behind Morikawa.

    Daniel Berger dropped two shots on the final three holes and joins Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns and Tony Finau in a tie for third, six strokes behind Morikawa.

    The performance of the day belonged to Harris English thanks to his 10 birdies, though it was not quite a blemish-free round as he dropped a shot on hole one.

  • Is Kirk Cousins holding the Vikings back? Is Kirk Cousins holding the Vikings back?

    When the Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a fully guaranteed contract back in 2018, they believed they were landing a quarterback who put them over the top and could help them deliver a first Super Bowl title.

    What they actually acquired, however, was perhaps the league's ultimate enigma at quarterback.

    Nobody could look at Cousins' raw numbers and deem him a bad quarterback. Yet throughout his career both with the Vikings and beforehand in Washington, he is a player who has continued to confound, most notably with an apparent inability to deliver in 'clutch' situations with the game on the line.

    Cousins' time as a pro was arguably encapsulated by his showing in Week 12. In the most important game of a season in which he has the best touchdown to interception ratio in the NFL, Cousins came up dismally small, a series of poor throws and a turnover dooming the Vikings to defeat against the San Francisco 49ers.

    The Vikings are not without their problems in other areas. However, with the weapons around Cousins, theirs is an infrastructure seemingly conducive to quarterback success.

    In terms of his statistics, Cousins has largely succeeded in 2021. Yet baffling performances like the one that dropped the Vikings to 5-6 last week only serve to give rise to the debate around Cousins and whether he is holding his team back.

    Cousins' San Francisco slump

    Already over 3,000 yards passing with six games still to play, with 23 touchdowns and a career-low three interceptions to his name, statistically the 2021 campaign ranks among Cousins' finest seasons.

    Delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 80.8 per cent of his pass attempts, above the league average of 78.4, and throwing a pickable pass on 10 out of his 385 attempts, Stats Perform's advanced metrics also reflect well on Cousins.

    But it is that apparent season-long consistency that makes displays like his showing against San Francisco all the more bemusing.

    Cousins has done an excellent job of taking care of the football this season, yet his third interception of the year came in the third quarter against the Niners as he somehow failed to spot linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair crowding his throwing lane on an attempted pass to Adam Thielen. As far as failures to correctly read the field go, that was as bad as it gets.

    That interception set the Niners up to take a 28-14 lead, a gap the Vikings were unable to bridge in large part because of inaccurate throws by Cousins.

    He led the Vikings on a touchdown drive on the next series only to then miss a wide-open Justin Jefferson on a two-point conversion try with a low throw.

    Jefferson was the target on a fourth-down throw in the fourth quarter that sailed well over his head, that play coming after Minnesota burned a timeout due to Cousins lining up behind the right guard instead of the center.

    Cousins is not the first quarterback to accidentally line up in the wrong spot in the heat of the moment, but such a gaffe gives the impression of a signal-caller ill-equipped to deliver when the pressure is at its highest.

    And, given the performance of the surrounding weapons, it is no wonder Jefferson was left throwing his arms up in disbelief at some of Cousins' misses.

    Stacked supporting cast

    Any thought of Jefferson taking a step back after a historic 2020 season that saw him break the rookie record for receiving yards has been put to bed.

    Jefferson is on pace to surpass his tally of 1,400 yards from last year and, among wide receivers with at least 25 targets, he ranks seventh in burn percentage, which measures the rate at which a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, while he is 11th with a big play rate of 39 per cent.

    Thielen, who had a pair of touchdowns against San Francisco, has also excelled at creating big plays, doing so on 34.6 per cent of his targets.

    With K.J. Osborn emerging as a legitimate third receiving option and Tyler Conklin enjoying a career year at tight end, Cousins possesses one of the best groups of pass-catchers in the NFL and is supported by a run game that has produced 37 runs of 10 yards or more, the 12th-most in the league.

    The potential absence of Dalvin Cook with a shoulder injury may reduce the assistance Cousins gets from the ground attack, but he is certainly in no position to complain about a stacked supporting cast, though he may be frustrated by a lack of help from other areas.

    The Vikings' fatal flaw

    Cousins' sack numbers have drastically improved this season. After taking 39 sacks last year, he has suffered only 15 across 11 games in 2021, pointing to an improvement on the offensive line.

    Yet a deeper assessment at the O-Line's performance suggests there may be a hint of fortune about the Vikings' success in preventing sacks.

    Indeed, Cousins has attempted 136 passes under pressure, second only to Matt Ryan (145), while the Vikings rank a lowly 28th in pass protection win rate.

    More often than not, the Vikings are losing the battle in the trenches, and that is the case on the defensive side of the ball, too.

    Continually bullied off the ball by the 49ers' superb rushing attack, the Vikings gave up 208 yards on the ground at an average of 5.3 yards per attempt.

    Though San Francisco's run game has dominated several teams this season, the Vikings' inability to stop them was in keeping with a theme of their season.

    They rank 26th in opponent yards per play allowed with 5.87 and are giving up 4.83 yards per rush, the most in the NFL. In Stats Perform's rush yards under expected allowed, the Vikings are also 26th.

    Minnesota's severe underperformance in containing opposing run games has a two-pronged effect. It has contributed to a defensive effort that has the Vikings giving up 25.1 points per game - with only eight teams conceding more - and allowed opponents to control the clock as the 49ers did last Sunday.

    Cousins' inability to make the key throws and that dismal interception undoubtedly played a critical role in Minnesota coming up short in Week 12, but the massive disadvantage in time of possession that resulted from San Francisco's run game dominance, along with a fumble from Cook as he suffered his injury, limited opportunities for the passing game to turn things around.

    That a quarterback of Cousins' experience and undoubted talents continues to throw in these sporadic head-scratching showings is a legitimate problem for the Vikings. However, they are too infrequent for him to be considered as holding Minnesota back.

    The reality is that, between the amount of points they are giving up and Minnesota's ineffectiveness against the run, the Vikings - for all their strengths on offense - aren't in a position to survive Cousins' off days.

  • Chargers must free Herbert from their own shackles in battle with Burrow & Bengals Chargers must free Herbert from their own shackles in battle with Burrow & Bengals

    The Los Angeles Chargers approached the 2021 season viewed by most as much more likely to make the leap and become contenders in the AFC than the Cincinnati Bengals.

    But as the Chargers and the Bengals prepare to do battle in a matchup that will be critical to deciding the final AFC playoff picture, Cincinnati are the team in a better position to mount a deep postseason run.

    The Bengals sent a message in Week 12 with a 41-10 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers that moved Cincinnati to 7-4, giving them their first sweep of that AFC North rival since 2009 and ensuring they ended the weekend only a game behind the AFC's current number one seed the Baltimore Ravens.

    Los Angeles go into Week 13 only a game out of their division lead, but with a 6-5 record and coming off a disheartening road loss to the Denver Broncos.

    Last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert threw the ball 44 times against Denver, his second-highest mark of the season having attempted 47 passes versus the Washington Football Team in Week 1.

    Yet the depth of those passes should encourage a Bengals defense that has greatly improved in 2021.

    Herbert averaged only 7.11 air yards per attempt last week, per Stats Perform data, below the league average for Week 12 of 7.93.

    External frustration is mounting at the apparent shackling of Herbert by his own offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the explosive plays that defined his superb rookie season significantly reduced this term.

    Herbert was tied seventh in the NFL last season with 32 pass plays or 25 yards or more in 15 games. Through 11 games this season, he has just 16.

    While the Bengals are in the top half in the NFL by yards per game allowed, ranking 13th with 348.2, they have proven susceptible to the big play.

    The Bengals have given up 47 passing plays of 20 yards or more, the seventh-most in the league, and it would surely be a great relief to their defense to see the Chargers stick with a conservative passing game and miss a chance to take advantage of a weakness for Cincinnati.

    After Joe Mixon gashed the Steelers for a career-high 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns, the Bengals likely won't hesitate to use the ground game to capitalise on a clear defensive deficiency for the Chargers.

    The Chargers have given up the most rush yards (1,598) in the NFL in 2021 while their rush average allowed of 4.69 yards per carry is the league's fourth-worst.

    Should the Bengals enjoy similar success on Sunday, that will take a great amount of pressure off 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow as he bids to pick apart a defense that is not living up to Chargers head coach Brandon Staley's reputation.

    Herbert looked to have surpassed Burrow as the premier quarterback from the 2020 draft class and most would argue he is still the cream of that particular crop.

    Yet if the Chargers cannot minimise their struggles on run defense and find a way to open up the passing game against a Bengals defense evidently vulnerable to explosive plays, Burrow could take a significant step towards starting his playoff career before Herbert. 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.