Ryder Cup flashback: Drama at Valderrama

As Le Golf National becomes only the second venue in Continental Europe to host The Ryder Cup, we look back to 1997 and the first occasion, when golf’s greatest team contest took place at Club de Golf Valderrama in southern Spain. Europe was led, in his homeland, by Seve Ballesteros while Tom Kite captained the USA in what turned out to be an epic three-day contest, preceded by a monumental thunderstorm. It was a match also memorable for the debuts, not only of this year’s Captains Thomas Bjørn and Jim Furyk, but also a fresh-faced American by the name of Tiger Woods.

After over an hour’s delay, due to the huge overnight downpour, the 32nd staging of The Ryder Cup got underway with an opening session of fourballs – a decision made by Ballesteros – and one which ended a run of eight consecutive Ryder Cups that had opened with foursomes.

By the end of the morning’s play the scores were tied at 2-2 but from that point on Europe took command, winning the afternoon foursomes session and both sessions on Saturday to open up a commanding 101⁄2 – 51⁄2 lead going into the singles.

However, as is often the case on Ryder Cup Sunday, the trailing team staged an impressive ghtback and, on the demanding Valderrama layout, the United States were hugely impressive.

Fred Couples set the tone with a resounding 8 and 7 defeat of Ian Woosnam in the top match while, further down the order, Je Maggert made eight birdies in his 3 and 2 victory over Lee Westwood. There were wins also for Phil Mickelson, Mark O’Meara, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman and Furyk, who played some sublime golf in defeating Nick Faldo 3 and 2.

With Europe requiring only 31⁄2 points to reach 14 points and retain the Cup the tension was as thick as the damp Spanish air, but they eventually reached their target thanks to victories from Per-Ulrik Johansson and Costantino Rocca, a half point from Bjørn against Justin Leonard, and a 2 and 1 victory from Bernhard Langer over Brad Faxon.

It was then left to Colin Montgomerie, in the final match on the course against Scott Hoch, to provide the vital half point which would see Europe win outright by 141⁄2 – 131⁄2. It was Montgomerie’s fourth appearance and he preserved his record of never having lost a singles match in The Ryder Cup. The Scot played on four more occasions and that proud record remained intact.