Can there be a golfer alive who doesn’t know that Christy O’Connor Jnr struck a 2-iron to three and a half feet on the 18th hole of his 1989 Ryder Cup match against Fred Couples to seal a memorable and emotional victory? But what about his other Ryder Cup performances?
Christy O’Connor Jnr Ryder Cup Record
Can there be a golfer alive who doesn’t know that Christy O’Connor Jnr struck a 2-iron to three and a half feet on the 18th hole of his 1989 Ryder Cup match against Fred Couples to seal a memorable and emotional victory?
Probably not, but perhaps fewer really know quite how fitting a finale it was for someone whose Ryder Cup road had not always been quite so smooth.
O’Connor finished 7th on the Order of Merit in 1975 – his only ever top 10. Two victories, including the Irish Open, secured him a Ryder Cup debut at Laurel Valley in Pennsylvania, where Tom Weiskopf proved his nemesis, teaming up with Lou Graham and then Johnny Miller to defeat O’Connor with Eamonn Darcy then John O’Leary. Not everyone played the singles in those days, and O’Connor was not selected for either the morning or afternoon one-on-ones. America trounced GB&I 21-11.
The Ryder Cup that perhaps should have been for O’Connor. When he finished just outside automatic qualification, he could scarcely believe it when captain Tony Jacklin overlooked him for wild card honours in favour of Jose Rivero. “It was a combination of things that kept me off in 1985,” O’Connor reflects. “It was something to do with other people who were helping with the selection. There were guys at the top of the Order of Merit who would have been influential. I thought I’d done more than enough to get in. I’d barely been out of the top 10 in my previous eight tournaments and finished 3rd in The Open. It was very hard to take. That was a real downer.”
Christy’s great Ryder Cup moment eventually came in his second and final appearance, with Jacklin this time paying heed to O’Connor’s Jersey Open win and strong mid-season form to offer him one of three wild cards. He teamed up unsuccessfully with Ronan Rafferty in the Saturday foursomes before his Sunday epiphany. Giving away scores of yards to Fred Couples on the 18th, O’Connor striped a 2-iron to three and half feet, so unnerving Couples that he didn’t have to use his putter. “I’ll tell you a funny story,” O’Connor says. “An old-time Irish lady in a little shop said to me afterwards: ‘You don’t know me from Adam, but I was on my knees praying for you in that big tournament. It was a shame they didn’t let you put it in the hole.’ And I said: ‘Thank you very much!’ But I was ready. Nobody wants to do it, but if I’d had to do it I was prepared.” The Ryder Cup had finally smiled on O’Connor.