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ryder cup captains

Who were the best repeat Ryder Cup captains?

Luke Donald is about to follow in the footsteps of many legends before him…

 

Following the hugely successful captaincy of Luke Donald in Rome, he was granted the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2025.

The Englishman led Team Europe’s thrilling 16.5-11.5 victory over Team USA at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome.

Davis Love III was the last Ryder Cup captain to get a second bite of the cherry when he was handed a chance to redeem himself at the 2016 edition in Hazeltine.

He was previously the Team USA captain in 2012, during the “Miracle of Medinah” when he was left powerless as the home side surrendered a 10-6 lead heading into the Sunday singles.

Here are the best repeat Ryder Cup captains from years gone by:

TEAM EUROPE/GB/GB&I

Tony Jacklin – 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989
(Won 2, Lost 1, Tied 1)

ryder cup captains

Our most successful captain was known for his good man-management but he had some great players to work with.

The 1970 US Open Champion couldn’t stop a 13th consecutive home win for the US in 1983 but the contest at PGA National (14.5-13.5) was the closest since 1969.

But that would be the only defeat for Jacklin in his four outings as a Seve-inspired Europe won 16.5-11.5 at the Belfry two years later.

America’s dominance on home soil was then halted with a 15-13 victory at Muirfield Village in 1987 as Seve, Faldo, Langer and Woosnam were too hot to handle. Back at the Belfry two years later, USA came from 9-7 down to level the match at 14-14, not enough to take the trophy home.

Bernard Gallacher – 1991, 1993, 1995
(Won 1, Lost 2)

A tough act to follow Jacklin but almost brought the trophy back from the “War on the Shore” at Kiawah Island.

Bernard Langer missed a six-foot putt to take Europe to 14 points and retain the cup. In 1993 at the Belfry rookie, Davis Love III holed the winning putt to give USA an away victory 15-13. It was their last win on European soil.

Gallacher finally had his moment at Oak Hill in 1995 where Philip Walton was the unlikely hero.

Dai Rees – 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1967
(Won 1, Lost 4)

The Welshman is fondly remembered as the Great Britain Ryder Cup captain who defeated the USA at Lindrick in 1957.

It was the only defeat for America between 1933 and 1985. There was little for Rees to cheer about in his other outings (see below).

Eric Brown – 1969, 1971
(Lost 1, Tied 1)

Scotland’s Brown instructed his players not to look for the opposition’s ball at Birkdale in 1969 in case they stood on it and incurred a loss of hole. The event will always be remembered for Jack Nicklaus famously conceding a missable putt to Tony Jacklin – resulting in the competition’s first tie.

The abrasive Scot suffered a heavy defeat two years later at Old Warson Country Club. The inclusion of Ireland’s Christy O’Connor couldn’t prevent an 18.5-13.5 loss with Nicklaus, Palmer and Trevino racking up 13 points between them.

Bernhard Hunt – 1973, 1975
(Lost 2)

The captaincy must have felt a bit like a poisoned chalice in the 1960s and 1970s and poor old Hunt could do nothing to stop Nicklaus, Trevino and Billy Casper helping the USA to a 19-13 win at Muirfield in 1973. In 1975, the last match before players from continental Europe were included, Hunt suffered a 21-11 loss.

TEAM USA

Ben Hogan – 1947, 1949, 1967
(Won 3)

Despite 20 years between his first and last captaincy, Hogan still came away with a clean sweep of victories. In 1947 at Portland Golf Golf, Great Britain only one one match as they went down 11-1. At Ganton in 1949, Hogan was recovering from a near-fatal car crash so took up a non-playing role as the USA triumphed 5-7.

Hogan’s swansong at Champions in Texas remains the largest Ryder Cup victory margin to date. Dai Rees saw his Great Britain team crushed 23.5-8.5. Arnold Palmer won all five of his matches.

Jack Nicklaus – 1983, 1987
(Won 1, Lost 1)

In the closest Ryder Cup since 1967, the sides were level at 8-8 going into the Sunday singles. Nicklaus decided to save his best players until last which paid off as Tom Watson secured a 2&1 win over Bernard Gallacher to clinch a 14.5-13.5 victory in 1983.

Nicklaus founded and designed the Muirfield Village course but the 1987 team was just too strong.

ryder cup captains

Arnold Palmer – 1963, 1975
(Won 2)

I think you would have struggled not to be a winning USA Ryder Cup captain in the years before continental Europeans joined the GB&I team but you can only beat what is in front of you and Palmer did that twice.

As a playing captain in 1963 ’The King’ bagged four points on his way to a comfortable victory. In 1975 he relied on Hale Irwin, Nicklaus, Casper, Floyd and Trevino to do the damage.

Sam Snead – 1951, 1959, 1969
(Won 2, Tied 1)

As a playing captain, Snead won his two matches in 1951, as did Hogan in his last playing appearance, as USA won 9.5-2.5 at Pinehurst. Snead was also a key player at Indian Wells in 1959 where Peter Alliss and Christy O’Connor secured GB’s only foursomes victory in an 8.5-3.5 loss.

If you were wondering what Snead made of Nicklaus conceding Jacklin’s putt for the tie in 1969 he said afterwards: “It was ridiculous to give him that putt. We went over there to win, not to be good ol’ boys.”

Tom Watson – 1993, 2014
(Won 1, Lost 1)

There must surely be a temptation to decline the offer of Ryder Cup captaincy if you have played one, won one? I wonder if Watson regrets the decision to lead the USA at Gleneagles?

His victory at the Belfry in 1993 halted a resurgent Europe but defeat in Perthshire will probably be remembered for his bizarre selections and post-match press conference where Phil Mickelson questioned his tactics.

Davis Love III – 2012, 2016

(Won 1, Lost 1)

Davis Love III was Team USA’s captain during the famous “Miracle of Medinah” when Team Europe overturned a 10-6 deficit heading into Sunday’s singles matches.

The much-loved American was back in the hot seat for Team USA just four years later when he was in charge of their 17-11 dismantling of Darren Clarke’s Team Europe.

Who is your favourite captain of Ryder Cup history? Tell us on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spoken to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, to name just a few.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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