The Ryder Cup started back in 1927, when an English millionaire seed merchant named Sam Ryder thought it would be sporting for the home-side professionals to take on the American pros in biennial team matches. Talk about bad ideas. Great Britain split the first four matches, then won only one of the next 21—in 1957. Great Britain added the rest of Europe to its side in 1979, but things didn't change. The Yanks won that year and again in 1981 and '83, making the score 21-3-1 as the teams convened for the '85 match last week at The Belfry, the home of the British PGA in Sutton Coldfield, outside of Birmingham.
As usual, it wasn't close. The final count after three days was 16� to 11�. A yawner. Only this time the pros from Great Britain and Europe won the cup.
Sam Torrance, a Scot, put Great Britain- Europe over the top on Sunday when he beat U.S. Open champion Andy North one-up. They were even on the 18th tee, but North drove into the water, and when Torrance hit his second shot safely across the lake and onto the green, a gang of his teammates, plus captain Tony Jacklin, rushed onto the fairway and embraced him. Victory was near. When Torrance sank his 22-foot putt for a birdie, he raised his arms in triumph and 25,000 delirious Englishmen went bonkers.
"Never have I felt as wonderful as I feel today," Torrance said. "And never will I feel as wonderful."
Teammate Bernhard Langer, the German who won the '85 Masters championship and is known as the Luftwaffe, seemed near tears. "Twenty-eight years," he said. "That's my age."
Who pulled off this miracle? Langer and Spain's Seve Ballesteros are household names by now, and Britain's Sandy Lyle, the '85 British Open champion, may be one someday. But no one expected the Tiny Tots, Britain's Ian Woosnam and Paul Way, neither of whom stands much taller than a driver, to make eight best-ball birdies Friday afternoon and reverse the tide after the U.S. had taken a 3-1 lead that morning.
Then there was Spain's Jose-Maria Canizares, another mystery name, 38 years old, who was teamed with the equally unfamiliar Jose Rivero, a Spanish club pro—if you can believe it—for much of his career. On Saturday, when all sorts of misfortunes befell Team U.S.A., these guys destroyed America's leadoff team of Tom Kite and Calvin Peete by the embarrassing score of 7 and 5.
And how about Howard Clark, Torrance's partner in a key win over Kite and North? When Clark sank a 55-foot putt at the 15th hole Saturday, he and Sam did a little jig on the green.
Finally, on Sunday, there was Manuel Pinero. The U.S. was trailing by two points and desperate for a comeback when, in the first singles match, Pinero took on America's match-play shark, Lanny Wadkins—who in just three appearances on the European tour last year won more money than Pinero did playing full-time. So what happened? The diminutive Spaniard, a man with a whiplash swing, made three birdies on the back nine and routed a frustrated Wadkins 3 and 1. That all but ended the war.
Which is what U.S. captain Lee Trevino had called the Ryder Cup earlier: War. Everybody thought he was kidding, but by Sunday afternoon the U.S. team was crushed and had long since lost its poise. The Americans ended up muttering about innumerable imagined transgressions: opponents tramping into their putting line, hostile fans stepping on their balls in the rough, match officials prejudiced against them, and, yes, fans hissing at their wives.