Ross Biddiscombe: Ryder Cup what ifs....

On the eve of the 40th Ryder Cup, author of Ryder Cup Revealed Ross Biddiscombe looks at 5 what ifs about golf’s greatest event

The concession
Jack Nicklaus' famous concession at the 1969 Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On the eve of the 40th Ryder Cup, author of Ryder Cup Revealed Ross Biddiscombe looks at 5 what ifs about golf’s greatest event

Ryder Cup what if…Samuel Ryder had not become patron of the Cup?

Well, there were other businessmen – mostly in America – who also had their chances to put their names to the trophy including Sylvain P Jermain, one of the leading lights of golf in Ohio.

Not only did Jermain have a chance to ‘do a Ryder’, but the owner of Wentworth, W.G. Tarrant, wanted the matches to be played for under then name ‘The Wentworth Challenge Cup’. However, Sam Ryder got there first.

Ryder Cup what if…the Europeans had not become involved in the matches in 1979?

This was the second time that the Ryder Cup had nearly collapsed and died – the Americans had been winning too easily for too long and the addition of Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and their continental European friends helped make the matches so much more competitive.

Without them, the Ryder Cup might have become a rather pedestrian end-of-season friendship exhibition, although there might also have been a Commonwealth team instead for the Americans to play. There was some talk before 1979 of Australia, New Zealand and even South African golfers joining the Ryder Cup.

Ryder Cup what if…the Battle of Brookline had ended in a European win?

The Americans were starting to get desperate for a Ryder Cup win in 1999, so when their team was 10-6 down after two days, the US press piled into the team like never before.

The astonishing turnaround (that included some rather tasteless behaviour by some US players and plenty of drink-happy fans) saved the reputation of American skipper Ben Crenshaw and his players.

Without that win, the US team that had last won in 1993 would have waited 15 years until their next victory in 2008. Who knows if the American public could really have waited that long – perhaps they would have lost some patriot fervor for the contest and the amazing crowd scenes of today would not be quite so memorable.

Ryder Cup what if…Jack Nicklaus had not conceded the final putt to Tony Jacklin in 1969?

The Concession as it has come to be known is an iconic moment in sport – Nicklaus picking up Jacklin’s marker rather than have his friend attempt a two and a half foot putt to tie the contest.

As it was, Nicklaus guaranteed that the 1969 contest became legendary, but Jacklin has admitted that to make that putt would have required all his best efforts and concentration. Had he missed it, it might have broken the Englishman and perhaps he would never have become the great Ryder Cup captain of the future.

Ryder Cup what if…the 2001 match had taken place on schedule?

When the terrorist attacks hit America in 2001 and postponed the Ryder Cup for a year, it was a shock to the event and the golf world, but a natural conclusion to a terrible event that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people.

However, the gap of an extra year allowed tempers to cool down from the horrid affair at Brookline two years earlier – that was good news.

But the postponement also put the Ryder Cup fever into even greater perspective – be patriotic, but keep it honest with the proper etiquette. And maybe the result would have been different too – the Americans certainly seemed more affected by the terrorism even by 2002 when they crossed the Atlantic to play. Once again, they were the favourites, but went on to lose.

Ross Biddiscombe’s Ryder Cup Revealed: Tales of the Unexpected is on offer at half price to readers of Golf Monthly during the month of September. Visit and click on the Golf Monthly Buy button.


Nick Bonfield
Content Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x