Monday, August 23, 2004
Updated: September 2, 9:43 AM ET
Melee in America
By Jim Schultz
Special to ESPN.com
Sept. 26, 1999 - Justin Leonard sank a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., helping bring the Ryder Cup back to the U.S. with the most improbable comeback in the competition's history. The Europeans led 10-6 heading into the final day, but the Americans captured 8½ of a possible 12 points in singles play for the 14½-13½ victory.
Trailing Jose Maria Olazabel by four holes with seven left, Leonard won his next four holes to square the match. When he made his birdie putt at the 17th hole, his teammates and fans celebrated on the green, angering the Europeans, as Olazabel still had a 25-foot birdie putt that could have tied the hole. When Olazabel missed, the U.S. victory was official.
"This was history being made today and we all wanted to be a part of that," said U.S. team member Hal Sutton. "This is the greatest moment in golf right now."
Odds 'N' Ends
The Country Club is recognized as the first country club in the U.S.
Francis Ouimet, who won the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, lived across the street from the 17th hole.
The first Ryder Cup was held in 1927 at the Worcester (Mass.) Country Club, just a few miles from The Country Club.
The U.S. won 23 of the first 32 Ryder Cups before 1999, but Europe had won five of the previous seven, including 1995 and 1997.
The final margin in 1999 was the seventh straight of two points or fewer in Ryder Cup competition.
Seven Europeans played the maximum of five matches over the three days. Tiger Woods and Hal Sutton were the only Americans to play all five matches.
Despite being the hero in 1999, Leonard remains winless (0-3-5) in Ryder Cup play.
The U.S. has never has lost three consecutive Ryder Cups. It was defeated in 1985 and 1987 and tied in 1989.
At the U.S. team meeting Saturday night, Ashley Sutton spoke emotionally about her husband Hal's perseverance, which helped him make the Ryder Cup team for the first time since 1987.
On Sunday, the Americans wore shirts adorned with photos of previous winning U.S. Ryder Cup teams. Team captain Ben Crenshaw and his wife Julie designed the shirts.
A month after helping the U.S. win at Brookline and four months after winning the U.S. Open, Payne Stewart died when his chartered jet crashed into a South Dakota field.
Eight days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2001 Ryder Cup was rescheduled for 2002, with all future competitions conducted in even-numbered years.