1987 Ryder Cup: Jacklin, Concorde, Olly and, of course Seve


Mark Townsend looks back at a Ryder Cup that many Europeans hold dear to their hearts..


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For many of us this was the greatest Ryder Cup of all. We might have been 10-4 down at Medinah and still won, pressed forward by the Spirit of Seve, but at Muirfield Village we had the great man in action.

And, for the first time, partnering Jose Maria Olazabal, the beginning of the greatest Ryder Cup pairing – Played 15 Won 11 Halved 2 Lost 2. Have a load of that America.

“That week Seve took care of everything,” Olazabal said.

“Tony Jacklin didn’t know what to do with me because I was a rookie. What was he going to do with me – I didn’t have any experience of the Ryder Cup – and all of a sudden Seve somehow took care of that. I think he approached Tony and said, ‘Don’t you worry, I’ll play with him.’”

Ken Brown tells a good story of how he and Bernhard Langer were the Spaniards’ first foursomes opposition in a nine-hole practice match for $10. After seven holes Seve and Olly were two down. Ballesteros then holed from a bunker at 17 and Olazabal converted from 20 feet at the last.

1987 Ryder Cup

“I remember walking from the putting green to the 1st tee on the first day of the match. I was really very, very nervous. He walked next to me and said, ‘Jose you just play your game, and I’ll take care of the rest.’ It was a great relief when I heard that,” Olazabal said.

Come the 18th green on Friday lunchtime the Spaniards had two putts from 15 feet from above the hole to beat Larry Nelson and Payne Stewart and level up the foursomes.

Nelson had previously played nine matches in the competition and won the lot. Ballesteros knocked the first putt six feet past and could barely watch as his 21-year-old partner rammed it in dead centre.

The partnership was off and running. The rest of the team was scarcely less inspired. There was a Saturday whitewash and formidable pairings in Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo (3 1/2 out of 4) and Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer (3 out of 3).

At the time Woosnam had done all his best work in Europe and was relatively unknown in the States, yet even to receive an invite to Augusta.

1987 Ryder Cup

Alongside Faldo, who had just won the Open, they battered the Americans. In their top fourball on the Saturday afternoon, against America’s star pairing of Curtis Strange and Tom Kite, it was all over by the 14th after 10 European birdies. Two hours later Langer ended the day with an 8-iron to a foot. Europe led by five.

While Europe’s big-name pairings had so far done all the damage the Sunday was one for the so-called journeymen. Sam Torrance (a half) and Howard Clark were the only successes in the first seven matches as America, with Stars and Stripes flags dished out to the fans by Captain Nicklaus and his wife, got within a point at 12-11.

But then up popped Eamonn Darcy, with a record of 0-2-8, and an opponent in Ben Crenshaw who had spent much of the day putting, and holing plenty, with a 1-iron after breaking his trusty wand.

What we all remember is the slippery little par putt at the last. What should also be noted is the kick in birdie at the previous hole to get back to level.

Fittingly it was Seve who rolled in the winning putt to defeat Strange. After an unbeaten record of 13-0 over 60 years the Americans had lost for the first time on home soil and, worse still, on Jack’s own course.

1987 Ryder Cup

The following drizzly evening a friend and I were at Heathrow’s arrivals lounge. We were the first ones there. An hour later there were 300 of us and, shortly after, we were joined by 12 great men and their captain.

And a Ryder Cup trophy which had never before been brought back from the United States. They all got heroes’ welcomes, particularly Darcy, but then it felt like the roof of the terminal would come off.

Here he came, beaming from ear to ear, the legend who had inspired all of this alongside his captain, the legend who had gone into the American backyard and won a couple of Green Jackets, the legend who had talked his team round after the heartache of four years earlier, the legend we all loved to bits and the reason why most of us ever picked up a club. Seve.

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