Last Updated: September 26, 2012 4:14pm
Seve drinks to Ryder glory
Seve Ballesteros breathed fresh passion into the Ryder Cup from the moment America took on Europe rather than just Britain and Ireland in 1979.
Davis Love III
Captain: Lanny Wadkins
Captain: Bernard Gallacher
That was the year of his first Open championship victory. By 1995 Ballesteros had added four more majors and had been a part of three Ryder Cup successes, but although he qualified in fifth place for Oak Hill it was clear that by the week of the match his game was a shadow of its former self.
It was written that he "brought with him to Oak Hill a sore back, an erratic game and the confidence of a right-handed novice borrowing Bob Charles' (left-handed) clubs."
What followed was a remarkable week when his sheer bloody-mindedness (as well as some serious skill) won through.
It was also a week when the Americans rediscovered their 1980s knack of choking in the Ryder Cup.
And yet the week went so smoothly, for so long, for the home team. Having halved the opening foursomes, America won the first day afternoon fourballs 3-1.
It was true that the Europeans fought back to win the second foursomes 3-1 but the home side completed a second 3-1 fourball win to take a two shot lead into the final day. With their traditional strength being the singles matches no-one could foresee anything other than an American win.
But that overlooked the Ballesteros effect. Omitted from both sessions of foursomes, Ballesteros was paired in fourballs with quiet man David Gilford, who was to say afterwards that, "Seve wanted to win so much that it was infectious. To have him as a partner was very special."
The problem was that Ballesteros could not find a fairway - he spent the Sunday morning frantically trying to find his swing on the range. And yet captain Bernard Gallacher had put him out first against Tom Lehman!
Questions were asked of the strategy - and Ballesteros did lose - but the manner of the defeat is paradoxically one of he Spaniard's greatest ever victories.
"Take any other professional and put him in the positions where Seve went," Lehman said afterwards, "and I would have beaten them eight and seven. But it was sickening how good his short game was."
After losing the first when he drove deep into the trees and had to take a penalty drop, Ballesteros chipped in to level on the next and that was the start of a series of remarkable recovery shots that kept him in the match.
He did not hit a single fairway on the front nine whereas Lehman was arrow-straight. But there was only one in it as they turned for home.
After losing 4&3 Ballesteros said: "I'm sure all the members at Oak Hill are not going to lose any more balls. I cleared all the rough and all the branches." In three games during the week he hit just three fairways.
Behind him, and inspired, the Europeans staged a remarkable comeback. It was unheard of them to win the singles matches but they did so by the three points they needed to complete a stunning victory.
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