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Ryder Cup 2010: An A-Z of the Cup's history

The winning European Ryder Cup team in 1985
Europe's first victory, at the Belfry in 1985, ended 28 years of US domination

By Peter Scrivener

The 38th staging of the Ryder Cup will tee off in Wales for the first time in its history this week with Europe looking to regain the trophy they lost to the United States two years ago.

First contested in 1927, the matchplay competition has provided moments of great sportsmanship, controversy, gamesmanship and pressure over the last 83 years.

Relive some of the best moments in our A-Z guide of the first 37 Ryder Cups.

A is for Azinger. Never far from controversy (see G is for gamesmanship), arch-antagonist Paul Azinger had a memorable battle for a half with Europe's Sir Nick Faldo in 1993 (see C is for concession). Zinger went on to win his biggest game, defeating cancer before returning as US captain in the last Ryder Cup in 2008. He used a US Navy-inspired pod system, to group players together based on personalities rather than ability. It worked and he ended a run of three defeats with victory over Europe at Valhalla, Kentucky. However, even that was not without its own controversy.

B is for Brabazon Course at the Belfry. The famous Warwickshire course was the venue for the first European victory in the Ryder Cup in 1985. Tears of joy flowed freely down Scotsman Sam Torrance's cheeks after he fought back from three down against US Open champion Andy North and sank the winning putt on the 18th green to end 28 years of American domination.

Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus
Jacklin and Nicklaus on Birkdale's 18th green at the 1969 Ryder Cup

C is for concession. The 1969 Ryder Cup ended in its first tie after perhaps the most sporting of concessions in golfing history. The final match saw America's Jack Nicklaus level with Britain's Tony Jacklin going up the final hole. Nicklaus, playing in his first Ryder Cup, holed a four-foot putt to ensure America would retain the trophy. But rather than force Jacklin to hole a three-foot putt to halve their singles match, he conceded it, saying: "I don't think you would have missed that putt but in these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity."

In contrast, in 1993, Faldo refused to concede a six-foot putt to Azinger on the 18th. Azinger expected the putt, which was to tie their match, to be conceded as the US had already won the trophy.

D is for dormie. A great position to be in because if you are dormie in matchplay golf, you cannot lose. The player in the lead is the same number of holes ahead as there are left to play (see M is for Monty). Rumoured to either come from the French verb 'dormir' meaning 'to sleep', or 18th century Scottish slang for dormice. As dormice are shy animals which would hide at the approach of golfers, it was considered good luck to spot one.

E is for envelope. At the start of the competition, each captain will place into an envelope the name of one of their players who will stand down from the singles if a member of the opposition is unable to play. Each side will get half a point. It happened in 1991 at Kiawah Island when Steve Pate was injured in a car accident and Europe's David Gilford sat out.

F is for Faldo. Sir Nick has in played in more Ryder Cups than anyone else. He won a record 25 points from 46 matches in 11 appearances as a player (1977-97). He helped win the event four times ('85, '87, '95 and '97) and retained the trophy with a tie in 1989. He was installed as captain for the 2008 event at Valhalla which ended in defeat for the Europeans.

G is for gamesmanship. Some players, like Sam Torrance, believe it is a form of cheating. Others, like Ian Poulter, say it's all part of the game. In 1969 British captain Eric Brown instructed his team not to help the Americans look for balls that went in the rough. In 1991 (see K is for Kiawah Island) Paul Azinger accused Seve Ballesteros of coughing every time his team-mate Chip Beck hit the ball. Ballesteros, who blamed the antibiotics he was on for the coughing fit, accused the Americans of switching balls and that led Azinger to label the Spaniard the "king of gamesmanship". Ballesteros retorted that the American team was "11 nice guys and Paul Azinger".

H is for Hagen. In the days when the captain of the side was also a player, Walter Hagen excelled. The American was in charge of the US team for a record six matches, playing in the first five, from the inaugural tournament in 1927. He led his team to four victories and was the first to win the Ryder Cup on opposition soil in his final match in charge in 1937. Hagen only lost one of the nine games he played, winning seven. H is also for holes-in-one. Only six have been achieved - the first five by Europeans. Peter Butler (1973), Nick Faldo (1993) Costantino Rocca and Howard Clark (1995) and Paul Casey (2006) for Europe, while Scott Verplank (2006) is the sole US player with an ace.

I is for Italians. Before the Molinari brothers Francesco and Edoardo made the 2010 team, Italy's sole representative in the Ryder Cup had been Constantino Rocca. He played in three contests, winning two. Rocca's biggest victory was a 4&2 triumph over Tiger Woods at Valderrama in 1997. It remains Woods's solitary singles defeat in five Ryder Cup appearances.

J is for Jacklin. As a player, Tony Jacklin will always be remembered for Jack Nicklaus's sporting decision to concede him a putt in 1969 (see C is for concession). Jacklin played in seven contests, picking up 17 points from 35 matches in an era of American dominance. As a captain, he will always be remembered for guiding Europe to their first victory. It came in 1985 at The Belfry and he followed it by handing the Americans' their first defeat on home soil at Muirfield Village in 1987.

Bernhard Langer at Kiawah Island in 1991
Langer's putt at Kiawah Island missed by a matter of millimetres

K is for Kiawah Island. The War on the Shore. In 1991, the Gulf War was raging and current US captain Corey Pavin turned up in a camouflage hat to the delight of a partisan home crowd that soundly jeered the Europeans. The Americans were not used to losing, having won 21 of the previous 28 matches outright but Europe were not going to give up the trophy they had held on to since 1985 without a fight. Europe's Colin Montgomerie fought back from four down with four to play against Mark Calcavecchia to earn a half on a final day packed with incident. The match went down to the final pairing and Bernhard Langer was left with a six-foot putt to halve his match with Hale Irwin and retain the trophy for Europe. His putt shaved the hole and the Americans went potty. The last word goes to that man Paul Azinger, who got a little carried away: "We went over there and thumped the Iraqis. Now we've taken the cup back."

L is for Langer. Bernhard Langer played in 10 Ryder Cups and was instrumental in helping the Europeans win five of them, and tieing a sixth to retain the trophy. The German's record of winning 24 points from 42 games, is second only to Sir Nick Faldo, however, he will forever be remembered for that missed putt (see K is for Kiawah Island). L is also for Lindrick. The site of Britain's last Ryder Cup victory. The 1957 win was their first since 1933 and the next time the Americans were defeated, in 1985, the Europeans had come on board.

M is for Montgomerie. A stalwart of the European team for the last 20 years he helped win five out of six Ryder Cups between 1995-2006, Colin Montgomerie is unbeaten in the singles, winning six and halving two of his eight matches. He fought back from dormie (see D for dormie) four down with four to play against Mark Calcavecchia on his debut at Kiawah Island in 1991, in 1997 he was man of the match, securing a half in the final match to ensure a European victory. In 1999 he had to overcome relentless taunting from the American crowd at Brookline (see X is for X-rated), in 2002 he picked up 4.5 points out of five as Europe triumphed and then he sank the winning putt two years later on American soil. His total of 23.5 points is only 1.5 behind Nick Faldo's record and he played 10 fewer matches. There is surely no more passionate member of the European team, but will captain Colin be smiling come Sunday?

N is for Nicklaus. In his first Ryder Cup, Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin in a great act of sportsmanship (see C is for concession). He would go on to play in six contests, winning 17 of his 28 matches to help the US retain the trophy throughout his playing career. However, after Europe's victory in 1985, the US made Jack captain and played the 1987 contest at his Muirfield Village golf club in Ohio. The Europeans did not read the script though, and Tony Jacklin's men won for the first time on American soil.

O is for O'Connor. Ireland's Christy O'Connor Senior played in all 10 Ryder Cups from 1955-73. He holds the unenviable record of most singles losses with 10. Last year, he was quick to put straight Rory McIlroy who called the event nothing more than an "exhibition". O'Connor said: "Rory's in for a pleasant surprise. The Ryder Cup is golf. He'll find it is not an exhibition when he starts playing."

BBC Sport's Peter Scrivener

P is for Pavin. America's Captain Corey (or crazy Pavin) played in three Ryder Cups at the start of the 1990s. He turned up for his debut in 1991 (see K is for Kiawah Island) with a camouflage hat in a nod to the Gulf War. He showed his class though, chipping in from a bunker to win his singles match against Steve Richardson, chasing his ball into the hall to whip up an already frenzied home crowd. The raw emotion for which he was renowned in his prime has not yet materialised as a captain. There's still time though.

Q is for qualifying. Each side consists of 12 players. The European team is made up of the top nine in the points list, with three places available as wildcard picks for captain Colin Montgomerie. And here comes that man Paul Azinger again. The 2008 US captain called Montgomerie's decision to pick Padraig Harrington as one of his three as "shocking". The United States team is made up of the top eight in the rankings list with the other four being selected by captain Corey Pavin.

R is for Ryder. Samuel Ryder only took up golf in his later years after making his fortune selling penny seed packets to gardeners. He came up with the idea of a tournament between American and British professionals after watching a friendly match at Wentworth in 1926. One year later, the first match took place at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts. The US won 9½ to 2½, and the seeds were sown… R is also for rookie. There are 11 playing in this year's contest. Europe have six, the most since 1999: Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco. For the Americans, Jeff Overton, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and Rickie Fowler are all new boys.

Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal
Spaniards Ballesteros and Olazabal were a formidable pairing

S is for Seve and the Spaniards. Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido were the first Spaniards to make the team when European players were allowed to compete in 1979. Ballesteros would go on to be synonymous with the Ryder Cup (see G is for gamesmanship), playing in eight contests and scoring 22.5 points in 37 matches. Ballesteros and his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal formed the most successful pairing, winning 11 of 15 matches and losing just two. Manuel Pinero played just twice, but his four wins in 1985 helped Europe triumph for a first time (see B is for Belfry). Sergio Garcia has won 67% of his 24 matches - the best return for any European who has played in at least three tournaments. He has amassed 15 points in his five appearances to date and helped Europe to three successive wins from 2002-06.

T is for trophy. Donated by Samuel Ryder, it cost £250 and stands 17 inches high. The figure on top is Abe Mitchell, the man who taught Ryder (see R is for Ryder) how to play the game. As a thank you, Ryder immortalised his coach by putting him on top of the trophy. "I owe golf a great deal, Sam," said Mitchell. "What you've done, putting me on top of the cup is more distinction than I could ever earn." Mitchell missed the inaugural event in 1927 with appendicitis, but returned to play in the next three. T is also for Twenty Ten - the name of the course over which this year's Ryder Cup will be contested as the event heads to Wales for the first time.

U is for undefeated. Of all the players who have played in three or more Ryder Cups, only one has won all of the games he has played. America's James Demaret won all six of his matches in the first three post-World War II Ryder Cups.

V is for victory margin. Europe recorded their biggest ever victory over the United States with an 18½-9½ victory at Oakland Hills in 2004. They followed that by winning by the same margin at the K Club two years later. Unsurprisingly, the US holds the overall record with a crushing 23½-8½ pasting of Britain in Texas in 1967.

W is for Woods. The Tiger has only made the American team as a wildcard pick after a quite staggering year or so off the course. The world number one missed five months as he tried to sort out his private life after details of his extra-marital affairs came to light. Woods has endured a frosty relationship with the Ryder Cup - in 2002 he said he could "think of a million reasons" why he would rather win a World Golf Championship event in Ireland than the Ryder Cup, and he famously lost both matches when paired with Phil Mickelson in 2004. However, he has won 10 of the 25 matches in which he has been involved, debunking the myth that he has a poor record. W is also for Westwood. Lee Westwood took time off to recover from a calf injury, after being called "stubborn" by Tiger, to ensure he would be fit for Celtic Manor. He has tasted victory on four of his six Ryder Cup outings.

The US team celebrate Justin Leonard's 45-foot putt on the 17th green
The American players and camera crews invaded the 17th green after Leonard's putt

X is for X-rated. The 'Battle of Brookline' in 1999 marked a new low for the Ryder Cup. Yes the American team won eight of the 12 singles matches on the final day to stage the biggest comeback from 10-6 down to win, but the victory was overshadowed by the abuse handed out by the American spectators to Europe's Colin Montgomerie. The big flashpoint came on the 17th green. Justin Leonard fought back from four down to level with Jose Maria Olazabal and then holed a 45-foot birdie putt and the American team wildly celebrated on the green as though they had won the cup. However, Olazabal still had a putt for a half which could have swung the tie back in Europe's favour. Once the commotion had died down Ollie missed and the US won the trophy. Europe vice-captain Sam Torrance called it "the most disgusting thing I have seen on a golf course".

The heckling of Montgomerie became so bad that his father retreated to the clubhouse while his singles opponent Payne Stewart, disgusted by the behaviour of some spectators, pointed out the more vociferous troublemakers to have them ejected - and then graciously conceded a long putt to hand the Scot victory on the final green. Stewart died in a plane crash a month later.

Y is for youngsters. Officially started in 2002, the Junior Ryder Cup, which is taking place at Gleneagles in Scotland this week, is played over two days and features six boys and six girls on each side. Europe won the first two, 2006 was tied and the US recorded a staggering 22-2 win two years ago. Sergio Garcia, who would go on to become the youngest Ryder Cup player at 19 years and eight months in 1999, featured in the first informal set of matches back in 1995.

Z is for Zoeller. Who else? Fuzzy's only here though because of his appalling record. He played in three Ryder Cups and lost eight of the 10 matches he was involved in, but he was on the winning side twice (1979 and 1983). OK, seeing as how you have made it to the end, here is a bonus: Z is also for zero - it is the amount of money the players are paid for playing. Remember, the Ryder Cup is all about pride.

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see also
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf
Montgomerie writes losing speech
27 Sep 10 |  Golf
Tweets not banned - Montgomerie
28 Sep 10 |  Golf
US golfers fly in for Ryder Cup
27 Sep 10 |  Wales
Managing is biggest test - Monty
26 Sep 10 |  Golf
Furyk edges Donald to Atlanta win
27 Sep 10 |  Golf
Harrington hits 64 in Cup warm-up
26 Sep 10 |  Golf

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Belfast Telegraph Ryder Cup: Padraig Harrington turns on the style - 12 hrs ago Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter smooth differences for the Ryder Cup - 15 hrs ago
Yahoo! UK and Ireland Monty plays fair over Ryder Cup golf course - 25 hrs ago
Glasgow Evening Times Monty vows to talk good game in cup sparring - 46 hrs ago
London Evening Standard There's no doubting Monty's ready for the Bulldog - 48 hrs ago


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