By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: September 24, 2012 5:08pm
Ryder Cup Aces
Scoring a hole-in-one is an extraordinary rush for any golfer.
But imagine performing the feat in the cauldron of a Ryder Cup.
Just six men have experienced the thrill of a Ryder Cup ace and here's how they did it:
Peter Butler - Muirfield 1973: The Englishman holds the distinction of scoring the Ryder Cup's first ever hole-in-one. It came on the 16th hole at Muirfield. The shot was perfect but Butler was fortunate to get the chance to hit it as he was only called in to partner Brian Barnes after Bernard Gallacher was taken ill with food poisoning. Despite the ace they lost to Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf as Europe were defeated 19-13.
Nick Faldo - The Belfry 1993: Faldo hit the perfect shot at The Belfry in 1993, a six-iron to the 189-yard 14th which carried a greenside bunker and rolled into the hole. Amazingly, Faldo revealed it came as no surprise. He said: "I told four players earlier that I'm going to hole one this week. I said birdies are not good enough." The hole-in-one was, at the time, the fifth of Faldo's career although he lost the final hole to halve his singles with Paul Azinger and Europe lost the match 15-13.
Costantino Rocca - Oak Hill 1995: The Italian, who famously beat Tiger Woods in the 1997 singles, scored his ace on the 167-yard sixth at Oak Hill - a superb five-iron which never left the flag and rolled in from 12 feet. "It was beautiful, sensational," said Rocca after registering the eighth ace of his career. His expression of pure delight was priceless as he jumped into the arms of playing partner Sam Torrance, the two going onto thrash Davis Love and Jeff Maggert 6&5 in Saturday's foursomes to help Europe win the match 14½-13½.
Howard Clark - Oak Hill 1995: Rocca's ace wasn't the only hole-in-one at Oak Hill that year. The following day Howard Clark holed a 176-yard six-iron on the 11th in his singles win over Peter Jacobsen. Clark's reaction was curious - he looked up, awkwardly patted his racing heart and wore a look more of relief than delight. Whilst the ball was in mid-air he also reached down for his tee even though he hadn't used one. "It was such a strange reaction I know," said Clark. "But I was pretty scrambled."
Paul Casey - K Club 2006: Casey became the fourth Englishman to register a hole-in-one in Ryder Cup action when his 213-yard four-iron toppled into the 14th hole at the K Club. It instantly sealed a 5&4 victory for Casey and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson in the Saturday foursomes. It was his first ever ace in tournament play. "The shot looked great but I didn't see it go in which was why the reaction was a bit sort of bizarre," said Casey who only thrust his arms into the air after a startled-face pause.
Scott Verplank - K Club 2006: Verplank became the first, and still only, American to score a hole-in-one at the Ryder Cup when, just 24 hours after Casey's ace, he too holed out at the K Club's 14th hole. It came via a sweetly struck three-iron and helped him secure a convincing 4&3 win over Padraig Harrington in the bottom singles match. Verplank celebrated with a customary high five but there was a tinge of resignation in there too with the Americans, as he put it, "getting their tails whipped". Europe won the match by a record-equalling nine-point margin.
So what chance a hole-in-one this year at Medinah?
Sky Bet have priced it up and go 7/2. Perhaps on first glance that looks to be giving nothing away but it's worth remembering that three of the last nine have witnessed aces so, on those stats, the odds are more than fair.
There are the standard four par threes at Medinah but do any of them look vulnerable to an ace? Here's their yardages and descriptions.
2nd, 192 yds: Green lies over Lake Kadijah, with water to the left as well. Prevailing wind is from right to left and not helping, while a large bunker is at the back right portion of the putting surface.
8th, 201 yds: Turning back the other way, this was a blind tee shot for the 1999 USPGA Championship, but now the players have a clear view of a heavily-guarded green that breaks hard from left to right.
13th, 245yds: Signature hole back over Lake Kadijah to a green that slopes right to left and is bordered by three bunkers. Easily the longest of the par threes and a real challenge.
17th, 193yds: Over Lake Kadijah for the fourth and final time. Temptation is to hit extra club to make sure of carrying the water, but miss the green and it is a tough up and down, especially with the pressure on.
There's just a squeak that the 16th could offer an outside chance too. It's a 391-yard par 4 but if the forward tee is used it could be driveable. Then again, in the history of the US Tour there has only been one ace on a par four - Andrew Magee's hole out on the 17th at Scottsdale in 2001.
The good news for hole-in-back backers at this year's Ryder Cup is that Olin Browne scored one in the 2006 US PGA Championship held at Medinah - a six-iron to the 17th.
The bad news is the different amount of shots that were hit in that event. Assuming a field of 156, a halfway cut of 70 and the standard four short holes, a total of 1808 tee-shots will be hit to the par 3s in a strokeplay tournament.
In a Ryder Cup there will be only 288 - 128 in fourballs, 64 in foursomes and 96 in singles.
It may be the best players on the planet hitting them, but given the lack of tee-shots to par threes at Ryder Cups, a hole-in-one should be treasured.
Maybe we should be more surprised that we've seen five holes-in-one in the last 11 Ryder Cups than the fact that there weren't any in the first 19!
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