1991 - Langer's big miss

  • Last Updated: September 24 2012, 22:29 BST

USA 14½ Europe 13½ - Dubbed the "War on the Shore", the match at Kiawah Island marked a real deterioration in the spirit of the contest, which came down to the very last putt as Bernhard Langer missed to end Europe's six-year reign.

Agony for Langer and Europe

Following the 14-14 draw at The Belfry in 1989, another desperately close finish was always on the cards at Kiawah Island in European captain Bernard Gallacher's first match in charge.

But the match also marked the start of a real deterioration in the spirit of the contest which was dubbed the 'War on the Shore' in reference to the Gulf War earlier in the year.

After years of benign contest, the Americans were hurting and came out fighting. A local radio DJ took it upon himself to wake up European team members with early morning phone calls to their hotel rooms, while Corey Pavin paraded around the course in a camouflage golf cap.

Accusations of gamesmanship flew between Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger while Steve Pate withdrew through injury on the final day, forcing the unfortunate David Gilford to sit out the singles as each side were awarded half a point.

"It soured the whole week for everyone involved," admitted Bernhard Langer. "I don't think we should go as far and use words like 'war'. This is a game, it's an honourable game played under fantastic rules and etiquette and we are all taught to be true sportsmen. I think it got a little bit out of hand."

What cannot be denied is that the Americans responded to the metaphorical 'call to arms'.

They won both morning foursomes sessions 3-1 to establish a three point lead halfway through the second day - the cussed veteran Raymond Floyd, the captain in 1989, claiming two wins on the first day alone.

Only the remarkable Spanish pairing of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal kept Europe in it, winning three of Europe's points.

When they needed heroes on the Saturday afternoon Europe found them in their rookies. Englishmen Paul Broadhurst and Steven Richardson, plus Scot Colin Montgomerie, paired up with veterans to earn wins whilst the Spanish pairing earned a half to tie the scores at 8-8.

After all the controversy, and a tight day of singles, it came down to the final match between Langer and Hale Irwin with the home side leading 14-13. Langer trailed all the way but victory would level the scores and ensure Europe, as holders, would retain the trophy.

"I remember being out last and all the other matches had finished," said the German. "I was two down with four holes to go and I won 15 and 17 so we came down the last hole even in the match, but we were one down as a team.

"He hit a horrible tee shot on the 18th and couldn't get there and made a five in the end. I hit a driver and three iron to the edge of the green and putted about six feet past. I missed it over the right edge."

A typically succinct Langer explanation, but one which does not quite do the dramatic scenes justice.

For a start, Irwin's wayward drive looked to be heading into real trouble until it received a friendly 'bounce' back into play.

"It was pretty strange, from the tee it looked like he was 45, 50 yards left," Langer admitted. "When we got there it was on the edge of the fairway. I don't know what happened, I couldn't see because there were too many people."

Then there was the unfortunate state of the 18th green.

"I had two spike marks on my line," Langer recalled. "I wanted to hit the putt on the left edge but I decided go around the spike marks by hitting it straight and it broke to the right. I did the best I could but there are circumstances you can't change."

America had won the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1983 and the team celebrated by running into the ocean.

But perhaps the most remarkable part of the story is what happened next - just seven days after such a crushing disappointment, Langer won the Mercedes German Masters.