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Five greatest Ryder Cup players in history

Simon Sinclair | September 19, 2016

Greatest Ryder Cup players in history

The Ryder Cup has brought out the best in competitors from both Europe (15/8 to win this year at Hezeltine) and the USA (4/7 favourites) since its inception in 1927.

Players have lifted the level of their game, feeding off the intense atmosphere that the tournament brings to drive their teams towards victory.

Here, Coral take a look at the five greatest Ryder Cup players in history…

Arnold Palmer (USA)

No American has come close to matching Palmer's 22 total Ryder Cup match victories.

No American has come close to matching Palmer’s 22 total Ryder Cup match victories.

Palmer played in six Ryder Cups and was a two-time captain for the States. He was the last-playing skipper in the competition at the age of 34, leading his side to a 23-9 victory over Great Britain in 1963, notching four points in the process.

In his six tournaments, Palmer played in 32 matches, amassing 23 points towards his side’s dominance of the Ryder Cup in the 60s and early 70s. No player from the USA has come close to matching his 22 total victories.

Palmer was the master of singles, taking seven points from his 11 matches. Only Peter Oosterhuis and Peter Aliss took points off the seven-time Major winner in one-on-one action.

Lanny Wadkins (USA)

Wadkins thrived mainly in foursomes and fourballs at the Ryder Cup.

Wadkins thrived mainly in foursomes and fourballs at the Ryder Cup.

Wadkins made his debut in the 1977 Ryder Cup and immediately made his mark, winning all three of his matches, including a singles victory over Howard Clark.

His speciality was foursomes and fourballs, winning a total of 16 1/2 points in his 26 matches. Only Palmer and Billy Casper can match Wadkins’ record in the competition for the States.

The one-time Major winner’s record in singles was not as strong, claiming five points from his eight matches, although he did take the scalp of Nick Faldo in 1989.

His personality on the course also came through, especially in the contest in 1989 when he was part of the USA revival to deny Europe an outright victory at The Belfry.

Ian Poulter (Europe)

Poulter is one of the greatest Ryder Cup players in history.

Poulter is one of the greatest Ryder Cup players in history.

Poulter has always raised the level of his game at the tournament, becoming Europe’s talisman in recent years.

He has struggled to live up to his potential in Majors, but for three days in September he always seems to be the top player on the course. No golfer in the United States’ ranks has relished facing the Englishman.

Poulter made his debut in the competition in 2004, but was forced to wait for the second day to get into the action when he and Darren Clarke were beaten by Tiger Woods and Chris Riley. However, he bounced back in the singles defeating Riley in Europe’s record triumph.

After missing the tournament in 2006, he responded with a fine display in Valhalla in 2008, keeping Europe in contention in the fourballs and foursomes. Despite his four-point performance, Nick Faldo’s men slipped to a defeat.

A three-point display followed at Celtic Manor in 2010, helping Europe edge out the States. However, his crowning moment would come at Medinah two years later.

Poulter single-handedly kept his team in the competition by sinking a 20ft putt on the final afternoon fourball to defeat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, turning the momentum in favour of Jose Maria Olazabel’s men. He delivered again on the Sunday beating Webb Simpson to play a huge role in Europe’s miraculous win.

Seve Ballesteros (Europe)

Ballesteros will always be remembered for his Ryder Cup displays.

Ballesteros will always be remembered for his Ryder Cup displays.

The late Ballesteros did not creek under the expectations of delivering for Europe in the competition. His 22 1/2 points are only bettered by Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Faldo – the latter two playing several more matches than the Spaniard.

Ballesteros made his debut at the age of 22 in the competition in 1979, but didn’t have great success at The Greenbrier, notching only one point in Europe’s heavy defeat. He bounced back on his return in 1983, contributing 4 1/2 points, although was powerless to stop falling to another loss.

Under the leadership of Tony Jacklin in 1985, Ballesteros led the charge to bring the cup into European hands for the first time with a 3 1/2-point performance. He was even better in the defence, with his first four-pointer in a 15-13 win for Jacklin’s men in Ohio in 1987.

Ballesteros’ best display was not enough to drag Europe to victory in 1991 as he collected 4 1/2 of his team’s 13 1/2 in their loss in South Carolina. The impact he had on the game in Europe was there for all to see on the face of his former friend Olazabal during Europe’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012.

Colin Montgomerie (Europe)

Montgomerie may never have won a Major, but was undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches.

Montgomerie may never have won a Major, but was undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches.

Field Marshal Montgomerie, as commentators referred to the Scot on his walk to the tee. If ever there was a player that elevated the level of their play in the competition it was Monty.

He simply was dominant in his form, especially in the singles, where he was unbeaten winning seven points. Monty was often used by captains as the tone setter to get Europe off to a strong start on the final day, which included wins over Scott Hoch and David Toms.

The Scot was the driving force behind Europe’s reclaiming of the trophy in 2002 after their disappointing loss of 1999. Monty scored 4 1/2 points after forming a deadly partnership with Langer to put Sam Torrance’s men in a commanding position.

Although further glory was to follow in 2006, his winning putt in 2004 in Michigan was his crowning moment in the competition, holding his nerve where he so often failed in Majors to ensure that the cup travelled back across the Atlantic. His 23 1/2 points are only bettered by Faldo and Langer but both men played several more matches than the Scot, making him the true star of the tournament.

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