David Feherty's Greatest Ryder Cuppers of All Time
December 02, 2011
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You may find this difficult to believe, but the Ryder Cup's storied 81-year history includes players with an even better record than my vaunted 1-1-1 mark. With the biennial event upon us, here are my picks for the all-time Ryder Cup all-stars, with players from both sides of the pond. I trust these 12 titans will adhere to Captain Feherty's strict rules: No practice allowed, except in the bar, and the order of Sunday singles shall be determined by a hiskey-chugging contest. (Thank god I'm not playing.)
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Lanny was intense, and he had the heart of an assassin. You did not want to play him. In '91, Team USA wasn't the strongest--you had Steve Pate and
Wayne Levi, who played like dogs, and Calc's anus exploded on the 17th tee. Lanny carried that team, finishing 3-1-1, and I'm proud to have him on my team.
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The all-time leader on either side in Cups played (11) and points won (25) could coolly, clinically take apart both a course and an opponent. He
had an aura of invincibility--and his physical presence was imposing, too. And beneath that exterior, there was real patriotic fervor in Faldo's blood.
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Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus
Ben Hogan never called Arnie by his first name. It was always "Palmer" or "Boy." Hogan was the king of the stare-down, but Arnie refused to be
intimidated. He was one tough SOB.
As for Jack? Because he's Jack friggin' Nicklaus. Moving on...
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Dai who? Yes, Dai Rees. The Ian Woosnam of his day, Rees was like a Jack Russell terrier: small, gritty, and once he got hold of your pant leg, he wouldn't let go. He was also the playing captain of the 1957 squad that beat the Americans, halting a brutal losing streak that dated back to 1935.
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He may be the greatest putter who ever lived. His Ryder Cup career, like his PGA Tour career, was overshadowed by Arnie and Jack. But guess
who's America's all-time points earner, with 23.5?
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The lumbering Scot was the embodiment of moody, and his rabbit ears seemed to hear every crinkly hot dog wrapper and every broken twig under every offending loafer in the gallery. His churlishness made him the player American fans most loved to hate, but he had an engaging side, too, which surfaced in pre-tournament press conferences. Hence his nickname in the U.K.: "Wonderful on Wednesdays."
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Nelson was truly underrated, with a Ryder Cup mark of 9-3-1. He got it. He understood that for him, the Ryder Cup was about America. He was a
great closer, too. One of the true injustices of recent golf history is that Nelson never captained Team USA. Maybe his personality was too mild-mannered to land that job, but I definitely want him in my foxhole.
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If Samuel Ryder was the instigator of the Ryder Cup, the Haig and his movie-star appeal gave it the gloss and glitter it needed. One year, he didn't like the quality of the uniforms the Yanks were supposed to wear, so he had his tailor fit the team with new duds. His 7-1-1 record speaks for itself.
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He was the heart, soul and engine of the European team. My one Ryder Cup was at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, in 1991. We had a sh__tty team. Sure, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer played for us, but so did ... Steve Richardson! And me! Seve made you better by sheer force of his personality.
I played Payne Stewart in Sunday singles, and before the match Seve took me aside. "They put you out early because they think you will lose," he said, then grabbed me by my shirt and chest hair and pulled me close. "But I know you have this heart." I got chills. I thought, "Wow! He believes
I can win--and so do I." I went out and beat the reigning U.S. Open champion, 2 and 1. It's funny--at Kiawah, I thought Seve looked physically smaller than he did on TV. I've realized that's because he made me feel 10-feet tall.
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Jose Maria Olazabal
I can't captain Seve without the other half of the Spanish Armada. Ballesteros and Olazabal had an incredible chemistry together. And with a sterling career record of 18-8-5, Ollie was no Garfunkel to Seve's Simon--he's an all-time Ryder Cup great.
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Langer may have missed The Putt at Kiawah. But for me, that moment defined him in a different way: He wanted to hit that putt. Like Michael Jordan in the final minutes, Langer wanted the ball. Plus, at the Ryder Cup, emotionless Germans are invaluable.
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