Seve – Part 6: The Ryder Cup



Seve. [Photo:]


Through the early part of his career, Seve had been the pride of Spain in the golfing world.


After becoming the country’s first major championship winner, dominating the European Tour and being an essential part of Spain’s inaugural World Cup victories, Seve had officially put Spain on the golfing map.


Not only had he put Spain on the golfing map, but he also paved the way for Continental Europe to develop separately from Britain and Ireland which had been the home of European golf. There was finally a continental golfer who could compete with the Americans, who had been so dominant for a long period of time.


As a result of this, in 1979 the Ryder Cup as it is today was officially born. For 50 years prior it had been exclusively Great Britain and Ireland, but because of the dominance shown by Seve and a number of other European players, this was expanded to include all of Europe. Players such as Bernhard Langer from Germany, Ian Woosnam of Wales and Sandy Lyle of Scotland, were all winning regularly around the world and invading the top of the World Golf Rankings.


On a stage played in front of a global audience against his arch-nemesis, a team full of Americans, Seve had the perfect platform to display his trademark flare and fierce personality.


Seve qualified as the number one ranked European for the 1979 Ryder Cup, his first appearance for Team Europe. This followed a season that included his first Major Championship victory at the Open Championship.


The Europeans travelled to White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia, at the Greenbrier Golf Club to take on a strong American outfit that included Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite.


The European team included Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Sandy Lyle who was making his debut also, and experienced Scottish pair Bernard Gallacher and Brian Barnes.


Despite these names, Seve’s Ryder Cup debut did not go smoothly.


Playing in all five sessions, Seve only managed to win one match, the Friday afternoon foursomes. Partnered with fellow Spaniard, Antonio Garrido, the pair recorded a 3&2 victory over Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green.


The Europeans were comprehensively beaten by the American team, 17-11 the final score. But Seve’s Ryder Cup career was underway and the 1979 edition marked the beginning of the Europe v USA rivalry.


Seve was not picked for the 1981 Ryder Cup despite recording two European Tour victories, a win in Japan and another in Australia.


But in 1983, he was back for vengeance.


The European team had been comprehensively beaten the previous two years and the United States had not lost a Ryder Cup since 1957.


Seve had qualified second for the European side who had assembled a strong team, featuring players like Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam.


The 1983 edition was at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, at PGA National Golf Club.


For the opening two days, Seve partnered rookie Englishman Paul Way in the foursomes and the four-ball matches. The pairing won two of their four matches and halved another, contributing 2.5 points to the European’s 8 point total across the first two days. The pair took down Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange on day one in a 1 Up victory, and Tom Watson who was paired with rookie Bob Glider on the second day.


Entering the final day of play in the Sunday singles, the European team were taking it right up to the United States with the score locked at eight all.



Seve was sent out in the very first pairing against Fuzzy Zoeller on Sunday.


After a fiery start, Seve seemed in control on the back nine holding a three-up lead with just seven holes to play. But Fuzzy was not done, fighting back to win four straight holes and forcing Seve to win the 16th just to level the match with two holes to play.


Standing on the 18th tee-box all square, Seve and Fuzzy both missed the final fairway and found the rough. Fuzzy played a smart shot back into the fairway, but Seve pulled a horrendous lie and could only advance the ball 20 yards forward into a fairway bunker.


Faced with another horrible lie and a near impossible shot, commentators had practically conceded the match to Fuzzy Zoeller. Seve was still 245 yards from the green and on an upslope in the bunker.


Naturally, Seve called for his 3-wood, as anyone would in that situation.


Seve swung hard, made perfect contact on a high-fade and the ball came to rest just 18-feet from the hole.


USA Captain and all-time great, Jack Nicklaus called it “the finest shot I have ever seen.” That was fairly high praise from arguably the greatest golfer to have ever played the game.


Seve managed to halve the hole and the match, a fitting end to a high-quality match between two champion players.


The European team went on to lose by a single point in the final match of the day, but the rivalry took a step to the next level and the Ryder Cup gained some new, exciting audiences.


Seve had also gained some new fans through his flare and exciting style of play, trademarked by that final approach into the 18th green. This was evident right throughout Seve’s career, but the Ryder Cup always seemed to bring the best out of him.




To read more about Seve by Connor Schmidtke click HERE 


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  1. This is the 3-wood story.

    Apparently there’s no footage of the shot itself.

  2. Great research. Lots of info. Thanks for an insight into a champion who has shaped golf.

  3. Great stuff. Seve’s absence in 1981 was over an appearance money dispute with the European Tour. Second rate Americans were getting paid just to appear in European tournaments, but it was denied him as a local despite being one of the world’s best. Seve rightly got the policy changed but not before Europe had shot itself in the foot.
    2 Seve stories I love. 1987 the Europeans have to defend their title at Jack’s Muirfield Village course in Ohio. Seve is partnering a 21yo Jose Maria Olazabal in his Ryder Cup debut. They are up against tough competitors in US Open winners Curtis Strange and Tom Kite. On the first hole Seve hits customary wild shots to miss the green on the Par 4. The other 3 all have makeable birdie putts. Olazabal leaves his just short and wants to putt out for par. Strange refuses claiming Olazabal would be standing on his line, to increase pressure on the debutants nerves. The Americans want to have their birdie putts as Seve has “no chance”. He tells them “you wait, it’s my turn” and theatrically stakes out his shot and then holes his chip over a bunker for birdie. The Americans both miss. Seve seemed to be able to conjure the impossible under pressure with skill and willpower.
    But his competitiveness was not limited to Americans. He had been playing in America for years and knew the different conditions to Europe – particularly the thick rough around the greens that required vastly different chipping techniques. He would get the new inexperienced European Ryder Cup players for days in the leadup and school them intensely on the flop shots needed for chipping from thick rough.
    One of the players particularly benefited from the advice and after the Europeans won he thought of Seve as a mentor. When he was struggling in a big tournament back in Europe a few weeks later he approached Seve for some advice. Seve shook his head “come back and ask me in 2 years time if you’re back on the team”.

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