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A Look Back The History of The Ryder Cup

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The first official Ryder Cup took place in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1927, though the idea for a series of matches pitting America against Great Britain has been floating around since 1920. That was the date the PGA of America first officially documented the foundation of the 'Ryder Cup,' as we know it. That group agreed to fund part of the expenses of a transatlantic crossing for the team.
 
The name 'Ryder' honors Samuel Ryder, a seed merchant from Manchester, England, who agreed to purchase the trophy in '27, along with Golf Illustrated and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.
 
James Hartnett, a circulation manager of Golf Illustrated, first broached the idea in 1920, and in 1921 he selected a team of Americans to play the matches against Great Britain at Gleneagles in Scotland. The American golfers had to make the transatlantic trek anyway to play in the Match Play championships, but got whacked solidly in this first-ever team event, 9-3.
 
In 1926, another unofficial match was arranged prior to the British Open qualifying. Once again, the hosts walloped the Americans, 11 -1 , this time at Wentworth. A seed was born to turn it into a biennial event, and the Ryder Cup matches were born.
 
The Americans won easily, 9 - 2 , in those first matches in 1927. Jackets and ties, hats with brims, were the order of the day for all competitors. Britain was without its key player, Abe Mitchell, who had his appendix removed, and the team was playing on weary legs after the oceanic journey. The Brits heartily endorsed a return match, which took place in 1929 at Yorkshire, England.
 
Walter Hagen was the American captain for the second time, and his team was brimming with confidence, especially after leading, 2 -1 , after the first day. But Great Britain won five of the eight singles matches and halved another to win, 7-5. The competition was truly born.
 
Both teams had won twice, each at home, after the 1933 matches in England. And in 1937 a visiting team finally won. The United States came away with an 8-4 triumph at Southport, England, and a trend was set. America would lose only once in the years preceding 1985. And - there would be no more Ryder Cup for 10 years. World War II got in the way, the conflict taking out the competition until 1947.
 
Gone by the time the Ryder Cup resumed was Hagen, who captained the American team throughout the pre-World War II years, and Gene Sarazen, the dominant player. Only Sam Snead and Byron Nelson played for the Americans both in the 1937 finale and in 1947 when the matches were resumed. And the U.S. had a couple of impressive newcomers, Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret. Together, they kept America in the forefront in the post-war era.
 
Britain's lone win was in 1957 at Lindrick in England. Coming from behind to win six of the eight singles matches and half another, the British would interrupt a series of seven unsuccessful attempts to win the Cup. The chastened Yanks won back the trophy in 1959, 8 -3 , even though such stalwarts as Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Ken Venturi and Gene Littler did not yet satisfy rules for inclusion which the PGA of America had in place at the time.
 
The format was changed in 1961 to include eight foursomes matches and sixteen singles, but the result remained the same - an American victory. And in 1963, the last playing captain roamed the course - Palmer. A third day was added, but it served only to heighten the American advantage.
 
The one-sided nature of the matches continued to 1979, when the Great Britain-Ireland team was opened up to include the whole continent of Europe. Parity was just around the corner, with Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido joining the team from Spain. The next time around Bernhard Langer and Manuel Pinero were included. That bunch joined Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam to make a hardened European team, and in 1983 they very nearly was victorious. The Americans won by the narrowest of margins in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 14 -13 . The difference was a brilliant pitch by Lanny Wadkins, which died just 18 inches from the cup in his singles match against Jose Maria Canizares.
 
'It was the most pressure that I have ever felt in making one shot,' Wadkins would later say.
 
In 1985, playing for the first time at The Belfry near Birmingham, England, Europe finally broke the long losing skein. Winning for the first time in 28 years, Europe featured five players born in the same year - 1957. The home side won in the seventh singles match, Sam Torrance defeating Andy North, and the Americans were sent home, beaten 16 -11 .
 
In got worse in 1987, when a youngster named Jose Maria Olazabal joined the Europeans and they won for the first time ever on American soil. Playing at Muirfield Village outside Columbus, Ohio, the home of U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus, the visitors stunned the Yanks with a 15-13 win.
 
Now the Ryder Cup field was truly level. Since 1985, Europe has won four times and America four times, the finale coming in 1999 with Justin Leonard sinking a monster putt on the 17th green against Olazabal to complete an unbelievable U.S. comeback.
 
Now the series is set to tee off in a new millennium with the 2001 matches. The Americans, with Curtis Strange at the helm, will battle once again at the Belfry against Europe, with Sam Torrance as captain.
 
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches