Alex Narey looks at ten players to have featured only once in the Ryder Cup, and evaluates their importance to their team’s respective fortunes
In many ways, a player’s golfing legacy is rubberstamped off the back of winning a place on a Ryder Cup team. Selection – whether on merit or via a captain’s pick – affirms the mark of a golfer who has consistently been at the sharper end of tournament leaderboards throughout the year. With an automatic spot comes the required level of form, while a nod from your leader serves as the perfect confidence boost to one’s ego. Either way, selection is generally always deserved.
But getting into the team is one thing; staying there is another. For first-time Ryder Cuppers, the nervous tension can be palpable; some feed off the emotions, while others shrink under the constant pace and pressure of it all – often, those who suffer the latter may never return.
Here, we run the rule over ten players, five Europeans and five Americans, to have featured in only one Ryder Cup in the modern era. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just downright ugly. Not literally, mind…
Steven Richardson – Kiawah Island 1991
The Hampshire golfer won his place in Bernard Gallacher’s team for Kiawah Island thanks largely to a brace of victories on the European Tour in 1991. He formed an impressive partnership with Mark James, winning two matches from the three they played together, including a resounding 5&4 victory over Corey Pavin and Mark Calcavecchia in Friday’s afternoon fourballs. Although Pavin would exact revenge in the Sunday singles, Richardson’s 2-2 return was hardly a disgrace.
Ignacio Garrido – Valderrama 1997
Ignacio Garrido would follow in the footsteps of his father Antonio, who represented Europe in the 1979 Ryder Cup. A maiden European Tour victory at the Volvo German Open in June of 1997 was the highlight in a year that saw the diminutive Spaniard finish sixth on the Order of Merit as a Challenge Tour Graduate. Steady enough in the foursomes and fourballs – where he claimed three half points – he was soundly thumped 7&6 by Tom Lehman in the singles – ouch!
Peter Baker – The Belfry 1993
Victories at the Dunhill British Masters and Scandinavian Open were enough for Peter Baker to win selection for the 1993 team, and the Shropshire man hardly looked out of place among the game’s biggest hitters. Forming a more-than-useful partnership with his good friend Ian Woosnam, the understated Baker won two points in the fourballs and another from his singles tussle with Corey Pavin.
Oliver Wilson – Valhalla 2008
You sensed Nick Faldo just didn’t quite have the required faith in Oliver Wilson at Valhalla in 2008. The Englishman, while enjoying a hugely consistent year, had to be content with three top-two finishes which, good or bad, suggested to some that he didn’t quite have the game to get the job done at the highest level. After sitting out Friday’s play all together, Wilson partnered Henrik Stenson in the Saturday foursomes against Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, and impressed with a 2&1 win. Then it was back to the bench, before running into a rampant Boo Weekley in the singles, losing 4&2.
Andrew Coltart – Brookline 1999
To the Scot’s eternal irritation, his 1999 outing has become the stuff of Ryder Cup legend. Coltart finished 24th on the Order of Merit, which was not enough to earn an automatic spot on Mark James’ Brookline-bound team. It was, however, enough to convince James that Coltart could play a role somewhere along the line, and so a captain’s pick was handed out. Then began one of the most bizarre decisions in the Cup’s history, with James benching Coltart and fellow rookies Jarmo Sandlin and Jean van de Velde until the carnage of the Sunday singles. Cue Tiger Woods and a 3&2 defeat; cue egg on face for James.
Wayne Levi – Kiawah Island 1991
Wayne Levi was 39 years old when he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1991, with 12 PGA Tour victories under his belt – four of which came in 1990 when he was voted the PGA’s Player of the Year, finishing second to Greg Norman on the US Money List. However, come Kiawah, his form had nosedived, and Levi was deemed surplus to requirements until Saturday afternoon’s fourballs, where his partnership with Lanny Wadkins wasn’t enough to challenge Steven Richardson and Mark James. Bereft of confidence, the challenge of Seve Ballesteros would prove too much in the singles, losing 3&2. Proof that a man can peak too early…
Boo Weekley – Valhalla 2008
The European team never really got going in Kentucky, and the vibrant US crowd played a huge part in that, led by the fist-pumping, wise-cracking Boo Weekley. But when he wasn’t whipping the galleries into a frenzy, the Floridian was playing some sublime golf, wining two and half points from three. His near-faultless singles victory over Oliver Wilson is perhaps best remembered for a Kentucky Derby-style hurdle down the first fairway.
JJ Henry – The K Club 2006
JJ Henry arrived in County Kildare as the 64th best player in the world, but with a solid reputation following his maiden PGA Tour win at the Buick Championship in July of that year. Lean and lanky at 6ft 3 inches, he was one of four rookies in a US team that featured the three best players in the world at the time – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk – but which went down 18.5 to 9.5 as the Europeans ran riot. To Henry’s credit, he remained unbeaten, claiming three half points in the record defeat.
Jim Gallagher Jnr – The Belfry 1993
Not many men got the better of Seve Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup, but that’s exactly what Jim Gallagher Jnr did in 1993, when he outplayed the Spaniard to win their singles match 3&2. A day earlier, Gallagher (who had won once in 1993 and would also bag the Tour Championship weeks after this contest at The Belfry) along with Corey Pavin, had dismantled the European pair of Mark James and Costantino Rocca 5&4 in the Saturday fourballs as the US staged their comeback that would result in overall victory.
Scott Simpson – Muirfield Village 1987
During the late eighties and early nineties, Scott Simpson built a reputation as something of a US Open specialist – winning it in 1987 and racking up another three top 10s over a five-year period. But he was never able to transfer that form onto the weekly grind of the PGA Tour, hence only one Ryder Cup appearance – a losing cause at Muirfield Village. Simpson only played once over the first two days, losing his Friday fourball contest with Ben Crenshaw 3&2 to Jose Rivero and Gordon Brand Jnr. He bit back at Rivero in the singles, winning 2&1, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the sea of blue as Europe charged the Americans down.
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