At most golf tournaments, players worry about keeping
their heads down. At the Ryder Cup, it's their breakfast
When England's Peter Oosterhuis played in the Ryder
Cup, from 1971 to '81, "We
weren't going, 'Oh, we're going
to beat the Americans,'" Oosty
says. It was a mismatch.
Even when Peter Jacobsen
made his first Ryder Cup team, under U.S. captain
Lee Trevino in 1985, the event was not what
it is today. "We had a ball with Lee," Jacobsen says.
No one outside the golf world gave the event
much thought because the Yanks always won.
Then the competitive balance shifted, and with it
Europe won at The Belfry in
England in '85, breaking a three-decade string of
U.S. dominance. Then, in '87, Europe won for the
first time on U.S. soil, at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
"They had six major winners on that European
team," Oosterhuis says. "So they weren't scared."
The most polarizing of those players, Seve
Ballesteros, was in his prime, and he met his match,
Paul Azinger, in a memorably tense singles match,
won by the American, in 1989. Ballesteros and
Azinger made no secret of their ill will for one
another, and it spilled over when Ballesteros and
Jose Maria Olazabal accused Azinger and partner
Chip Beck of cheating at Kiawah Island in 1991.
In just six years everything had changed from
the likely outcome, to civility among players and
fans, to the ever-mounting pressure. By the time
Jacobsen made his second team, in 1995, the Ryder
Cup wasn't friendly, it was frightening.
"I was more
nervous for the second one," Jacobsen says.
Call it golf 's ultimate stress test, where players
are simply trying to remember how to breathe.
It's that scary. But don't take it from us, take it
from the players who have been there ...