the ryder cup logoThe Ryder Cup 1991 “War By the Shore”

The 1991 Ryder Cup lives in history with the nickname “The War by the Shore.” With a moniker like that, it was no doubt a contentious affair.

The Kiawah Island Ocean Course Ryder Cup set the tone for all future Ryder Cups as the most competitive, most contentious and, yes, the most nerve-wracking event in professional golf. Player’s weren’t just playing for themselves. They were playing for their team and, more importantly, national pride.

ryder cup golfers seve ballesteros and jose maria olazabal
Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal

Since the event took place not too long after the victorious Desert Storm war in the Middle East, a patriotic, pro-American
sentiment was running high all across the U.S.. The Americans, led by captain Dave Stockton, set the mood by posing for a military-inspired photo/poster, and some Team USA players showed up wearing battle-fatigues-inspired golf caps for Day 1 of the matches.
The “war” rhetoric fanned the flames for some unfortunate spectator behavior, Team Europe players claimed.
The Americans said they were simply honoring troops taking part in Operation Desert Storm; the Europeans said some of the Americans’ actions crossed the line from patriotism to jingoism.

Regardless, the tone was set. It continued with accusations of rules violations back-and-forth between Paul Azinger and Seve Ballesteros; accusations of gamesmanship; and again when Team USA withdrew an injured Steve Pate from singles (resulting in an automatic half-point to both sides) with an injury whose legitimacy was questioned by Team Europe.

During the matches, the USA jumped to a 3-1 lead after the opening foursomes and led 4.5 to 3.5 after Day 1. The “Spanish Armada” – Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal – prevented an early American runaway by winning both its Day 1 matches. (That pairing was 3-0-1 for the week, and Ballesteros led both teams with a 4-0-1 individual mark.)

In the Day 2 foursomes, the USA again won the session 3-1, building an overall 7.5 to 4.5 lead. Things appeared bleak for Europe, until the Europeans almost ran the table in the afternoon fourballs, taking the session 3.5 to 0.5.

Which sent the 1991 Ryder Cup into the Sunday singles session tied 8-8. As the holder of the Cup, Europe needed six out of 12 available singles points to retain it; USA needed 6.5 of a possible 12 singles points to win the Cup back.

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David Feherty and Nick Faldo got Europe off to a good start by winning their early matches. But the lead changed multiple times throughout the final day, a day whose tension is best described by the Mark Calcavecchia-Colin Montgomerie match. Calcavecchia took the match dormie after the 14th hole, 4-up with four to play. But Monty, playing in his first Ryder Cup, fought back. In truth, both played poorly over those last four holes, but Calcavecchica appeared on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. Monty won the 15th and 16th hole, then gave Calcavecchia a chance to win it by hitting a ball into the water on the par-3 17th. Calc used that opportunity to hit an even worse tee ball, very nearly a shank, that also went into the water only halfway to the green. Amazingly, Calcavecchia still had a chance to win the hole, but missed a 2-foot putt. Calc then bogied the 18th to lose another hole, giving Montgomerie the halve.

Afterward, Calcavecchia walked down to the beach next to The Ocean Course, sank into the sand and cried.

It all came down to the final match on the course, Hale Irwin vs. Bernhard Langer, and the match reached the final green all square. Langer needed to win the hole to win the match and retain the Ryder Cup for Europe. Irwin needed to halve the match to win back the Cup for USA.

Irwin struggled to get in the hole, Langer conceding him a short bogey putt. Which left Langer 45 feet from the cup with two putts to win. But Langer ran his first putt six feet past the hole, and then, attempting to slide the ball past two spike markes, slid his par putt past the cup. A half-point for Team USA, a half-point for Team Europe – and a 14.5-13.5 victory for the Americans.

ryder cup golfer paul azinger
Paul Azinger

Team Rosters

Europe:
Seve Ballesteros, Paul Broadhurst, Nick Faldo, David Feherty, David Gilford, Mark James, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Steven Richardson, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam

USA:

Paul Azinger, Chip Beck, Mark Calcavecchia, Fred Couples, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Wayne Levi, Mark O’Meara, Steve Pate, Corey Pavin, Payne Stewart, Lanny Watkins

Day 1 Results:

Foursomes
• Seve Ballesteros/Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe, def. Paul Azinger/Chip Beck, U.S., 2 and 1
Raymond Floyd/Fred Couples, U.S., def. Bernard Langer/Mark James, Europe, 2 and 1
Lanny Wadkins/Hale Irwin, U.S., def. David Gilford/Colin Montgomerie, Europe, 4 and 2
Payne Stewart/Mark Calcavecchia, U.S., def. Nick Faldo/Ian Woosnam, Europe, 1-up

Fourballs
Sam Torrance/David Feherty, Europe, halved with Lanny Wadkins/Mark O’Meara, U.S.
Seve Ballesteros/Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe, def. Paul Azinger/Chip Beck, U.S., 2 and 1

ryder cup golfer payne stewart 1991
Payne Stewart

Steven Richardson/Mark James, Europe, def. Corey Pavin/Mark Calcavecchia, U.S., 5 and 4
Raymond Floyd/Fred Couples, U.S., def. Nick Faldo/Ian Woosnam, Europe, 5 and 3

Day 2 Results:

Foursomes
Hale Irwin/Lanny Wadkins, U.S., def. David Feherty/Sam Torrance, Europe, 4 and 2
Mark Calcavecchia/Payne Stewart, U.S., def. Mark James/Steven Richardson, Europe, 1-up
Paul Azinger/Mark O’Meara, U.S., def. Nick Faldo/David Gilford, Europe, 7 and 6
Seve Ballesteros/Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe, def. Fred Couples/Raymond Floyd, U.S., 3 and 2

 

 

Fourballs
Ian Woosnam/Paul Broadhurst, Europe, def. Paul Azinger/Hale Irwin, U.S., 2 and 1
Bernhard Langer/Colin Montgomerie, Europe, def. Corey Pavin/Steve Pate, U.S., 2 and 1
Mark James/Steven Richardson, Europe, def. Lanny Wadkins/Wayne Levi, U.S., 3 and 1
Seve Ballesteros/Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe, halved with Payne Stewart/Fred Couples, U.S.

 

ryder cup player seve ballesteros
Seve Ballesteros

Day 3 Results:

Singles
David Gilford, Europe, halved with Steve Pate, U.S.
David Feherty, Europe, def. Payne Stewart, U.S., 2 and 1
Nick Faldo, Europe, def. Raymond Floyd, U.S., 2-up
Colin Montgomerie, Europe, halved with Mark Calcavecchia, U.S.
Corey Pavin, U.S., def. Steven Richardson, Europe, 2 and 1
Seve Ballesteros, Europe, def. Wayne Levi, U.S., 3 and 2
• Paul Azinger, U.S., def. Jose Maria Olazabal, Europe, 2-up
• Chip Beck, U.S., def. Ian Woosnam, Europe, 3 and 1
• Paul Broadhurst, Europe, def. Mark O’Meara, U.S., 3 and 1
Fred Couples, U.S., def. Sam Torrance, Europe, 3 and 2
Lanny Wadkins, U.S., def. Mark James, Europe, 3 and 2
Hale Irwin, U.S., halved with Bernhard Langer, Europe

Player Records (wins-losses-halves)

Europe
Seve Ballesteros, 4-0-1
Paul Broadhurst, 2-0-0
Nick Faldo, 1-3-0
David Feherty, 1-1-1
David Gilford, 0-2-1
Mark James, 2-3-0
Bernhard Langer, 1-1-1
Colin Montgomerie, 1-1-1
Jose Maria Olazabal, 3-1-1
Steven Richardson, 2-2-0
Sam Torrance, 0-2-1
Ian Woosnam, 1-3-0

the ryder cup winning team 1991USA
Paul Azinger, 2-3-0
Chip Beck, 1-2-0
Mark Calcavecchia, 2-1-1
Fred Couples, 3-1-1
Raymond Floyd, 2-2-0
Hale Irwin, 2-1-1
Wayne Levi, 0-2-0
Mark O’Meara, 0-2-1
Steve Pate, 0-1-1
Corey Pavin, 1-2-0
Payne Stewart, 2-1-1
Lanny Wadkins, 3-1-1