The original Ryder Cup miracle – and what might have been this week
Bernard Gallacher recalls his famous 1995 victory on the day we should have been preparing for another supposed mismatch
Bernard Gallacher does not subscribe to the common consensus that if the Ryder Cup had gone ahead this week the team in blue and gold would have left Wisconsin black and blue. Indeed, he believes it could have been yet another case of the United Flakes of America.
The biennial dust-up was due to begin tomorrow but the pandemic led to the 12-month postponement, which was announced in July. That means Padraig Harrington is playing in the first round at the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle today instead of naming his foursomes pairings for the opening session at Whistling Straits.
But despite the Americans winning 11 of the past 13 majors and boasting eight of the world’s top 10 players, Gallacher feels the delay is not necessarily a positive from a European perspective.
“The Americans really would not have wanted to play without fans as they’ve come to rely heavily on that raucous support over the years,” Gallacher, 71, says. “But anyway, I think it’s a shame it’s not on as it might have been like a Ryder Cup from back in the 80s, when the Americans just turned up with all their major champions and expected to win – and then remembered we had a few great players as well.
“Like Tony [Jacklin] in his captain’s speeches, Harrington, would probably have said, ‘Right boys, they’re overwhelming favourites, they’re at home and we are going to roll up our sleeves, and get stuck in and see how good they are’.
“And the Americans don’t seem to like it when the Europeans get stuck in. They look aghast when we also birdie a hole to get a half with them. ‘Yeah, we’re not bad at this – we also make our livings from it’. For some reason that gets to them.
“It was like that in Paris a few years ago. They won the first session 3-1 and after that, when Europe refused to fold, it was all downhill for [Jim] Furyk’s men. Their heads went down. Brooks Koepka, their superstar, couldn’t hit a fairway and nobody wanted to play with Patrick Reed. And I’m thinking, ‘This just doesn’t go on in the European camp’. Just think back to Seve [Ballesteros] and Nick [Faldo] at Oak Hill.”
Today is the 25th anniversary of Gallacher leading Europe to a 14½-13½ victory in Rochester, Upstate New York. One of the more dramatic finishes saw the US lose on home soil for just the second time and denied their first hat-trick in the Europe era. For Gallacher, the venerable Scot, it was vindication after his two previous defeats as captain.
“In today’s culture of football managers getting sacked after a few months in the job, I would never have been given another chance,” he says. “To be truthful I wasn’t keen. Ken Schofield [the former European Tour chief executive] asked me to stay on, but when we lost narrowly at home in ’93 at The Belfry, I thought that was it. We’d been beaten on the last green in ’91 at Kiawah [Island] and I wondered if I was a bad omen.
“But then I got a letter sent to the pro shop at Wentworth [where he was the head pro for 25 years] and it was from one of the top players who I respect a lot. I won’t reveal who. It said, ‘We need a captain who’s done the job over there, because this is going to be tough’. So I reconsidered.”
At 9-7 down going into the singles, the portents seemed written. America had not lost after holding the advantage going into the final day since the second match in 1929.
“Everybody knows about ‘The Miracle of Medinah’ [the successful Europe fightback from 10-6 down in 2012], but this was a minor miracle in itself,” said Gallacher. “Philip [Walton] got the winning point but everyone remembers Faldo’s as crucial, chipping out sideways and backing himself to get a par four on the last.
“I almost felt sorry for Curtis [Strange] because there was something about Faldo. He never looked at the opposition, but he had a presence that put his rivals off. Greg Norman experienced this at the 1996 Masters. It was nothing Faldo did intentionally. He just went about his business. Concentrating on himself. Nobody else.
“But that day all the emotion came out. Seve and Nick hugging on the 18th green, both crying. No, they were not great pals, they did not go out for dinner together, but there was that mutual respect. And Seve had been playing so poorly that, deep down, we knew he was finished as a Ryder Cup player. And Seve was so patriotic he didn’t want to go out thinking he’d cost us the win. Faldo felt that. It was a great scene that, to me, summed up Europe in the Ryder Cup.”
And so the party went through the night – except not in the traditional manner. “It was all a bit anticlimactic,” Gallacher says. “Of course, the Americans did not want to know and we were all exhausted. We were on Concorde back early the next morning, so we went to bed early.
“The wives stayed up, though. Lesley [Gallacher’s wife], Suzanne Torrance, Carmen Ballesteros, Jane James, Bev Clark – they did the celebrating for us.
“The thing is, the core of that team had defeated the US a few times by then and were used to it. Although I do have to say that beating the Americans never gets old.”
‘The Americans would not have wanted to play without fans as they rely on that raucous support’
‘Seve and Nick both crying and hugging on the 18th green was a great scene that summed it up for me’
Victorious: Europe’s Ryder Cup team, led by Bernard Gallacher (centre of back row), celebrate clinching the 31st match in 1995 at the Oak Hill Country Club, New York. Posing with the trophy (back row, left to right) are players Philip Walton, Mark James, Severiano Ballesteros, Sam Torrance, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, David Gilford, Colin Montgomerie and (front row, left to right) Ian Woosnam, Costantino Rocca, Per-Ulrik Johansson and Howard Clark