A generation of European dominiation at the Ryder Cup

Bernhard Langer recalls the turning point that led to a European wave at the Ryder Cup matches
Bernhard Langer was a key player in turning around Ryder Cup fortunes for Team Europe. Here he is in competition in 1981 at Walton Heath.

It seems that every year, on paper, the United States Ryder Cup team is expected to beat the Europeans. Wins, world ranking and form heading into the event often make the U.S. betting favorites. In 2021, the Europeans are +175 underdogs via PointsBet. Somewhat controversially, Patrick Cantlay was just named PGA Tour Player of the Year over World No. 1 Jon Rahm.

Recent history suggests that the notion of the Americans being a favorite in any Ryder Cup is a long shot. Ever since the mid-1980s, the Ryder Cup has belonged to the Europeans. The US won 13 events in a row from 1959 to 1983. In 1983, the Euros came tantalizingly close to catching the U.S. at PGA National. They would ultimately get it done in emphatic fashion in 1985 with a 16.5-11.5 triumph.

From 1985 to 2018, Europe has won 12 times to the United States' five.

One of Europe's most decorated golfers in history, Bernhard Langer has a storied history in the matches. He played in 10 Ryder Cups (9 consecutive from 1981-1997) and has a 21-15-6 record all-time. He also holds the record for the most foursomes points of any player in the event with 11.5.

He has a 1-0 record as captain. That was 2004, the year that trounced the U.S. at Oakland Hills 18.5 - 9.5, a record rout (it was later matched by Europe two years later at the K Club in Ireland). Langer has the added satisfaction that one of his captain's picks, Colin Montgomerie, played stellar golf at Oakland Hills and clinched the event for the Euros.

This week, GolfPass released My Roots: Bernhard Langer, an inside look at the two-time Masters champion and Ryder Cup stalwart. In this five-part series, Langer recalls his humble beginnings in the game as a caddie in Germany and his adversity in military service. Then there are, of course, his Ryder Cup memories. They begin with that close call in 1983, when Sam Torrance's 3-foot bogey putt missed at the 17th hole, giving the U.S. the match and winning point for the U.S.

"In the locker room we all felt we were this close," said Langer. "We hadn't been this close in years. Seve comes over, there's no reason to be down on ourselves, we were really close to winning and we're going to win one soon."

WATCH My Roots: Bernhard Langer on the Ryder Cup

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The Ryder Cup

Of course, no Ryder Cup veteran has an unblemished record. Langer missed a crucial 6-foot putt at the 1991 "War by the Shore" at Kiawah Island that led to a half point in his singles match with Hale Irwin and handed the event to the U.S. (Langer had conceded Irwin's bogey putt). The events of the 1991 matches elevated the Ryder Cup in public interest even further.

Seve Ballesteros receives a great deal of the acclaim for creating a Team Europe juggernaut in the 1980s that to this day is difficult to beat. But Langer's place in the matches shouldn't be overlooked.

The full My Roots: Bernhard Langer and more Ryder Cup content, including Speed Rounds from past events including the electric Rory McIlroy vs. Patrick Reed at the 2016 matches, is exclusive to GolfPass members. | JOIN HERE.

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
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A generation of European dominiation at the Ryder Cup