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Ryder Cup 2014: A look back at the fiercest rivalry in golf

There are times when individual players or even full teams lose the plot a little and say or do something to the opposition which is considered unsporting behaviour. However, when it comes to the gentlemanly sport of golf, such antics aren’t expected…unless it’s the Ryder Cup.

Here we take a look back over the years at some of the more colourful moments which have made the Ryder Cup must-watch television. Because at the end of the day, it’s this kind of passion that makes the winning feel that much more special.

The “Concession” in 1969

Acrimony was running wild between the European and USA teams in 1969 to the point where the captains from both camps had to get onto the course to calm their irate players down on the second day. However, on this occasion the match did have a somewhat positive ending. Jack Nicklaus of the US conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin on the 18th green and then accepted a tie, thus denying the US victory but retaining the title for the US as they were the current holders of the trophy. The gesture became a legendary act of good sportsmanship known simply and fondly as “The Concession.”

European infighting leads to player ban, 1979

1979 saw some unsavoury scenes when infighting broke out in the first ever European team. Mark James and Ken Brown were each handed huge fines for that time for allegedly refusing to wear the European jacket or even attend meetings with the rest of the team. Brown was subsequently banned from international duty for 12 months.

The scuffed golf ball incident, 1989

Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger seemed to have a feud brewing between them in 1989, and the two clashed heads over a scuffed golf ball in the Ryder Cup that year. Azinger questioned whether the ball was damaged, prompting Ballesteros to ask: "Is this the way you want to play today?" Later in the game it would be Ballesteros’ turn to play games when he raised doubts over a Azinger drop at the 18th – it was the spark to mark the beginning of the modern rivalry.

”War on the Shore”

Kiawah Island in Hawaii would be the venue where things between the two Ryder Cup teams escalated even further, two years after the Ballesteros/Azinger feud. It was a clash that quickly became known as the “War on the Shore” due to the bad blood and fanatical American support. Things got so bad that several players were reportedly left in tears by the overwhelming pressure. Ballesteros and Azinger took little time in reigniting their bitter battle and clashed again, while Europe were angered when injured American Steve Pate pulled out of his singles match – meaning the point had to be shared. The US players also played to the rabid crowd during the event, which took place soon after the invasion of Iraq. The US went on to win the event by a single point.

“Battle of Brookline”

It was eight years later when the US team found themselves at the centre of more controversy, the notorious “Battle of Brookline” in Massachusetts the setting this time around. Right from the start the game had a dark, poisonous feel to it following a tense build-up. At one stage Payne Stewart even conceded a match to Colin Montgomerie, allegedly out of embarrassment at the behaviour of the home fans in attendance. However, before the tournament had even started, he had stoked the fires by claiming Europe should have been “caddying for the US team, not playing against them.” But worse was still to come, with the low point coming on the final day when the US team, some fans and even the media suddenly stormed onto the 17th green to celebrate after Justin Leonard holed a crucial putt, even though Jose Maria Olazabal was still yet to play his shot. The Spaniard, clearly unnerved by the ruckus, missed his putt and the US won the event.

A parting of the clouds…and then more controversy

The events at Brookline were acknowledged by both teams that things had gotten out of hand, and several Americans apologised for their antics. It was the kind of gesture that was needed, but unfortunately not accepted by everyone. European captain Mark James only added more fuel to the fire by telling them: “You can’t pretend that nothing has happened.”

“Miracle of Medinah”

The most recent chapter of this enthralling rivalry happened in 2012, known as the “Miracle of Medinah.,” after Europe staged an extraordinary comeback recovery from 10-4 down to win 14½ - 13½. It highlighted the pressure of match play golf as Tiger Woods of all people missed a putt to hand Europe the win.

It’s been a great ride down the years, and next week will be the next chapter in the Ryder Cup saga. Make sure you’re keeping right up to date with the happenings at the event by checking back for regular updates at OnlineGolf.

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