Europe Takes the Ryder Cup Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Captained by England’s Tony Jacklin, Europe’s Ryder Cup golf team defeated the team from the United States to win the Ryder Cup for the first time in twenty-eight years.

Summary of Event

The Ryder Cup was inaugurated in 1927 by Samuel Ryder, a seed merchant, as a biannual tournament between the professional golfers of the United States and Great Britain. The tournament was to be played as both singles matches and pairs. Over the years, the number of players and matches has varied between twelve matches and players to more than forty matches. The American teams have tended to be a good deal stronger than the British, and by 1985 they had lost only three times, in 1929, 1933, and 1957, and drawn once, in 1969. Golf Sports;golf Ryder Cup [kw]Europe Takes the Ryder Cup (Sept. 15, 1985) [kw]Ryder Cup, Europe Takes the (Sept. 15, 1985) Golf Sports;golf Ryder Cup [g]Europe;Sept. 15, 1985: Europe Takes the Ryder Cup[05800] [g]United Kingdom;Sept. 15, 1985: Europe Takes the Ryder Cup[05800] [g]England;Sept. 15, 1985: Europe Takes the Ryder Cup[05800] [c]Sports;Sept. 15, 1985: Europe Takes the Ryder Cup[05800] Jacklin, Tony Trevino, Lee Ballesteros, Seve Faldo, Nick Floyd, Ray

By the end of the 1970’s, the disparity between the U.S. and British teams had become so great that it was suggested the British team should become a European one. The first enlarged tournament, with twelve players on each side, was played in 1981 and consisted of two days of pairs, both two-ball and four-ball, totaling sixteen matches, and twelve singles played on the third day. The 1981 result was still an overwhelming U.S. victory, but the 1983 Ryder Cup was an altogether different story. The U.S. team only scraped through to victory on the last day, with the results being finely balanced for most of the tournament.

The 1985 tournament was therefore eagerly anticipated. Renamed the Bell’s Scotch Ryder Cup, after its new sponsors, it was to be played on the Brabazon course at The Belfry golf resort in Wishaw, Warwickshire, near Sutton Coldfield in the English West Midlands, on September 13-15. The U.S. team was captained by Lee Trevino, a vastly experienced Ryder Cup golfer and winner of the U.S. PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) Championship in 1984. The European team was captained by English golfer Tony Jacklin, a former British and U.S. Open champion. Both captains were, as usual, nonplaying members of their teams. Most of the team members were selected on merit and current form, but each captain was allowed to nominate a small number of players outside this list.

The U.S. team drew on a number of experienced Ryder Cup players, including Ray Floyd, Tom Kite, Kite, Tom Lanny Wadkins, Wadkins, Lanny and Fuzzy Zoeller. Zoeller, Fuzzy Zoeller had won the U.S. Open in 1984 and the U.S. Masters back in 1979, but his Ryder Cup record was not impressive only one win in seven matches. Four members of the team were rookies: Peter Jacobsen, Jacobsen, Peter Andy North, North, Andy Mark O’Meara, O’Meara, Mark and Hal Sutton, Sutton, Hal who had won the 1983 PGA Championship. One, Hubert Green, Green, Hubert was the current PGA champion. The final three had had minimal experience at the time: Calvin Peete, Peete, Calvin Craig Stadler, Stadler, Craig and Curtis Strange. Strange, Curtis Ray Floyd was the oldest at forty-three, and Hal Sutton the youngest at twenty-seven.

The European team was unusual in that it contained four Spaniards, the leader of whom was Seve Ballesteros. He was well experienced in the Ryder Cup, although he had never won a singles match in the tournament. His compatriots were José Maria Cañizares, Cañizares, José Maria Manuel Piñero, Piñero, Manuel and José Rivero. Rivero, José It was Rivero’s first Ryder Cup. Bernhard Langer, Langer, Bernhard the sole German, had a very good Ryder Cup record. The rest of the members of the team were British. Nick Faldo was far and away the most successful Ryder Cup player of the whole team, with eleven wins. Other English players were Howard Clark Clark, Howard and Paul Way, Way, Paul who at twenty-two years old was the youngest player of the tournament. Wales provided Ian Woosnam, Woosnam, Ian and from Scotland came Ken Brown, Brown, Ken Sam Torrance, Torrance, Sam and Sandy Lyle, Lyle, Sandy the new British Open champion. Unusually, there were no Irish players. At thirty-eight, Cañizares was the oldest European player. Jacklin had selected Faldo, Brown, and Rivero.

The two captains had to nominate their players for each match ahead of time without knowing the other team’s selection. The opening match was a two-ball, or foursomes, match, in which each player in the pair would strike the ball alternately. Jacklin paired the Spaniards Ballesteros and Piñero together. Very experienced, they beat the relatively inexperienced U.S. pair of Strange and O’Meara, but the U.S. team won the other three morning matches. The most surprising result was probably Peete and Kite’s win over Langer and Faldo.

In the afternoon, the first four-ball match took place. Ballesteros and Piñero went out again and won their second victory, over North and Jacobsen. Jacklin gambled by putting up Way and Woosnam, who just scraped home against Zoeller and Green on the last hole. Floyd and Wadkins beat Torrance and Clark, as expected, and the other match, Stadler and Sutton against Langer and Cañizares, halved that is, it was a tie, giving each team a half point. At the end of the first day, which drew some twenty-five thousand spectators, the U.S. team had a score of 4 ½ (the team had won four matches and tied one) and European team’s score was 3 ½.

The second day turned out to be very difficult, with worsening weather conditions, gray and wet, and a lot of wind. This was to the Europeans’ advantage, as they were more accustomed to such weather on the golf course. In the morning four-ball matches, the Europeans gained back the point they had been trailing. Way and Woosnam repeated their match of the day before, beating Green and Zoeller. For the first time the Spanish pair lost, to O’Meara and Wadkins. Stadler and Strange halved. In the afternoon two-ball foursomes, the Europeans emerged decisively in front, winning three matches to the Americans’ one. Jacklin’s hunch of sending out the two Spanish pairings worked brilliantly. They were joined by Langer and Brown. This left the U.S. team trailing 7-9, with twelve matches to go.

Trevino gambled on the last day, nominating his best players to lead, hoping to make up the deficit quickly, but it did not work. Stadler won, but Wadkins and Floyd lost and Kite could only halve with Ballesteros, although they were all close matches. Langer, too, had beaten Sutton even before some of the earlier matches were finished. After Lyle beat Jacobsen, it was left to Sam Torrance to clinch the match for the Europeans. He had been three down with eight holes to play, but he managed to run out the winner on the eighteenth whole. The Europeans won the last day 7 ½ to 4 ½ to take the Ryder Cup by 16 ½ to 11 ½, their largest ever win. The Spaniards Piñero and Ballesteros, with 4 victories and 3 ½ victories, respectively, were the European heroes.


With the European win in 1985, the evening out of the two sides in the Ryder Cup had finally been accomplished, making the tournament much more competitive than it had been previously. This resulted in far greater crowds and coverage for successive Ryder Cups, and players from both continents became increasingly eager to be chosen for Ryder Cup teams. The tournaments that followed repeated the 1985 Ryder Cup’s successful pattern of hard-fought matches, with everything still to play for on the last day. The Europeans, having broken through the American dominance, became a lot more confident and continued to win frequently.

Tony Jacklin captained the Europeans twice more before the end of the twentieth century, with a victory in 1987 and a draw in 1989. Most of the younger players from both sides in the 1985 tournament went on to win major titles: Curtis Strange, Mark O’Meara, and Craig Stadler on the U.S. side, and Ballesteros, Lyle, Faldo, Woosnam, and Langer on the European side. Golf Sports;golf Ryder Cup

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Concannon, Dale. The Ryder Cup: The Complete History of Golf’s Greatest Drama. Rev. ed. London: Aurum Press, 2004. Covers the entire series of matches up to 2002 from start to finish. Concannon is a noted historian of the Ryder Cup.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Emery, David. Ryder Cup ’85. London: Pelham Books, 1985. Detailed volume devoted just to the 1985 tournament.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lauren, St. John. Seve: Ryder Cup Hero. Nashville: Rutledge Hill, 1997. Concentrates on Seve Ballesteros’s Ryder Cup exploits, including those of the 1985 tournament.
  • citation-type="booksimple"


    The “Times” Ryder Cup: A Complete Record, 1920’s to Present. London: Times Books, 2006. Presents accounts based on reporting on each of the tournaments from The Times of London.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Williams, Michael. The Official History of the Ryder Cup 1927-1989. London: Hutchinson, 1989. History of the tournament draws on first-person accounts from many of the leading protagonists of the Ryder Cup through the years.

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Categories: History