Seve – Part 7: Ryder Cup Continuation


Seve. [Photo:]


Despite the passion and rivalry that Seve had helped grow throughout Europe during his early Ryder Cup appearances, one thing that had eluded him was actually beating the Americans and claiming the Ryder Cup.


His next opportunity came in 1985, at The Belfry in England which marked Seve’s first Ryder Cup appearance on European soil.


Seve qualified seventh on the European team after a successful year on all golfing circuits, racking up multiple wins on the European Tour and a win on the PGA Tour, at the USF&G Classic.



The European team was filled with experience in the 1985 edition, fielding just one Ryder Cup rookie amongst household names such as Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam. Seve was one of four Spanish players picked in the team, showing just how far Spanish golf had come in such a short period of time.


The opposing American side looked relatively similar to past contests, also. Featuring names such as Tom Kite, Fuzzy Zoeller, Curtis Strange and Raymond Floyd.


Over the first four sessions of play, Seve found himself paired with fellow Spaniard, Manuel Pinero, as he had in previous Ryder Cup appearances.


The Spanish duo clinched a pair of 2&1 victories on the opening day, followed by a 5&4 smashing of Craig Stadler and Hal Sutton in the Saturday afternoon foursomes match. Seve and Pinero claimed three of a possible four points over the first two days, helping the European team to a two-point lead heading into the Sunday singles matches.


Seve went head-to-head with Tom Kite on the final day of play, determined to help lift Team Europe to their first Ryder Cup victory. Seve headed off fourth in the day’s play and after a tough, back and forth battle the two could not be separated. Similar to his singles match in the 1983 Ryder Cup, Seve could only manage a halved match after an entertaining encounter.


In the grand scheme of the final day however, Seve’s match did not make the difference as the European side went on a rampage. Winning six of the first eight matches in the day, Team Europe claimed a comfortable 16½ – 11½ point victory and closed out the Ryder Cup early on Sunday.


This not only marked the first European victory in the Ryder Cup, but the first American loss since 1957.


When speaking about the feeling of playing in front of the European fans in England, Seve stated: “we must say that maybe 80% of the victory is thanks to all the British people, because they are just fantastic. They cannot be better.”



This victory whet the appetite for the Ryder Cup and truly sparked the rivalry, proving that it was no longer an event the Americans could simply dominate without fuss. It also marked the last Ryder Cup that was not broadcast on live television, with the event in high demand for golf fans everywhere.


Seve had been instrumental in developing the tense competition between the two continents and the global stage was loving it.


But his best was still yet to come and Seve’s finest Ryder Cup arguably came at the 1987 edition.


Following their inaugural victory in 1985, the Ryder Cup returned to American soil at Jack’s Place, Muirfield Village in Ohio. After suffering their first Ryder Cup defeat, the Americans vowed to bring everything they had at the European side in order to reclaim the trophy. They had no intention of failing in Jack Nicklaus’s backyard and would not entertain the thought of losing on home soil.


Seve qualified fourth again for Team Europe, once more surrounded by Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer. This time though, there was a new Spanish rookie making his Ryder Cup debut, a 21-year-old by the name of Jose Maria Olazabal was a Captain’s selection, picked by Tony Jacklin.


The American team featured a different line-up to the one who faced the European Team two years prior. Payne Stewart, Mark Calcavecchiia and Larry Mize all debuted alongside stalwarts such as Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins and Ben Crenshaw.


Captain Jacklin made the decision to pair the Spaniards together for the first day of play. He said he chose to keep them together “because of their personal and national pride. I was going to play Jose Rivero with Seve but he was intimidated by him.”


This was the birth of arguably the greatest Ryder Cup pairing of all-time.



In the Friday Morning foursomes session, Seve and Jose took on Veteran Larry Nelson and rookie Payne Stewart. The match was the final in the morning session and became vital, with the Americans holding an early 2-1 lead.


The match came down to the 18th green, with both Seve and Jose facing a 15-footer from above the hole to win the match. Funnily enough, it was not Seve who was the hero on this occasion but Jose, who nailed the putt right into the centre of the cup to give the Spanish pair a 1UP victory.


The spirited Spanish performance got their partnership underway and helped level the morning session. This then paved the way for the Friday afternoon four-ball matches, where the Europeans put the foot down.


A thumping 4-0 whitewash completed a stunning first day of play for the European’s, who took a 6-2 overall lead out of the first day of play. Seve and Jose paired for another victory, fighting out a 2&1 win over Curtis Strange and Tom Kite. Their love and passion for representing their country and Europe, partnered with their hatred for the Americans was shining through and proving them as a formidable opponent.



Another victory on Saturday morning for the pairing helped guide the Europeans to a five-point lead heading into the Sunday singles. Seve and Jose had won three out of four points together and helped build the almost insurmountable lead, a win on foreign soil almost in the Europeans’ grasp.


However on a tense final day at Jack’s Place, the American’s came storming back.


Five wins from the first seven matches closed the lead to just 1½ points and Americans were closing with a wet sail.


Seve was matched against Curtis Strange in the third last match. He described his match:


“It was a charged, tense atmosphere. At the tenth, Strange hit his third stroke out of turn, and I had to ask the umpires to warn him, although I didn’t ask for the redress within my rights. After two more holes he’d reduced my lead from two to one. I looked at the scoreboard and realised I couldn’t afford any loss of concentration. At the seventeenth I learned that Langer and Nelson were level at the last hole. As I was two up with two to play, if Bernhard drew his game – something I knew might happen – I only had to beat Curtis for Europe to triumph.”


Seve went on to close out his match on the seventeenth, the clinching point for Team Europe and a famous victory on American soil.


“My putt at the eighteenth to win the Open at St Andrews in 1984 is undoubtedly the happiest stroke I’ve hit in my whole career, but this shot to win the Ryder Cup on the Americans home soil for the first time isn’t far behind.”


This Ryder Cup was a defining moment in Seve’s career. Not only did he spearhead the team that went onto enemy soil and defeated the dominant American side at Jack’s Place, he formed possibly the greatest Ryder Cup partnership of all-time.


Seve and Jose went on to finish with an 11-2-2 record from their 15 matches together, terrorising the Americans for the following decade.


The Ryder Cup was one of Seve’s great prides, getting to fly the flag for Spain and Europe. He helped to build a great rivalry from the ground up and through his spirit and passion, he firmly paved the way for European golfers after a dominant era for the Americans.



To read more about Seve by Connor Schmidtke click HERE 


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