The 94th PGA Championship is set to unfold over the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, this week, a golf course that will forever be remembered for the 1991 Ryder Cup, the infamous ‘War on the Shore’.
Coming into the 1991 Ryder Cup, the Americans had not won the event since 1983, which at the time was the United States’ longest winless stretch since the Ryder Cup began in 1927. It also took place in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, when American forces in Iraq had led a military campaign, and Corey Pavin brought the military theme to the Ryder Cup by wearing a camouflage cap.
There were squabbling and rules disputes on the golf course, particularly between Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger, and the atmosphere among the galleries became frenzied.
“The 1991 Ryder Cup was the first time the Ryder Cup nearly got out of hand,” remembers Bernhard Langer, a member of the 1991 European team. “It did get out of hand at times: Seve was accused of gamesmanship, and there were comments and things written that were not what the game of golf is about. While the Ryder Cup is very important to both sides, it has a great tradition of sportsmanship and fairness. It is about the best 12 golfers from Europe playing against the 12 best golfers from the United States, with a view to creating friendship between the nations, not to wage war on the shore.”
Ultimately, the result of the 1991 Ryder Cup came down to a six-foot putt on the 18th green for Germany’s Langer. If he holed it, Europe would retain the Ryder Cup with a 14-14 final score, but Langer missed, and the Ryder Cup returned to American hands. Langer was left stooped on the green in agony, as if he had taken a bullet, but today he takes a characteristically philosophical stance.
“Certainly for the few hours afterwards, and probably into the next day or two, I thought about that putt quite a bit,” he admits, “but otherwise I really have not thought about it very much. It just comes back to me when people ask me about it in interviews!
“A week later, in the final round of the German Masters, I faced a 15-foot putt on the last hole to get into a play-off, and my first thought was: you just missed a six-footer a week ago, and so I walked around for a moment and said to myself: don’t go there. Don’t think about that. Let’s focus on this. I was able to make the putt, and I won the play-off.”
Story courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, official car of the 2012 PGA Championship