The year is 1989 and America's best golfers have gathered in England to try to regain the Ryder Cup. The Americans are young; five are Cup rookies. As the final singles matches tee off the Europeans lead, prepared to take advantage of their overall team experience. Their big target match: Fred Couples. Despite his anxieties ("The first time I played in the Ryder Cup," Couples admitted, "I could hardly breathe") he was nothing short of excellent for 17 holes, but so was his opponent, the crafty Irish journeyman Christy O'Connor, Jr. With the match all-square, and a victory imperative, Couples blistered his drive on the 18th, leaving himself an easy nine- iron to the green. O'Connor's tee shot stopped nearly 250 yards short of the pin. "Coming down the fairway," O'Connor recalls, "(captain) Tony Jacklin said to me, 'If you put him under pressure, I promise you will win the hole and the match. Just have a good swing.'" Pulling out a two-iron, O'Connor had the swing of his life; his approach landed within four feet of the hole. "The tumultuous reception from the massed gallery," writes Colin Jarman, "was possibly heard as far away as the Emerald Isle. In response to the Irishman's supreme second, Couples played one of the worst shots of his life."
This was a defining moment in Ryder Cup history and Jarman replays it with both care and drama. But then, he does that with every match in Ryder Cup history back to Walter Hagen and the event's inauguration in 1927. To go with his stunningly recreated match recaps, Jarman offers overviews, anecdotes and a record book. He even describes the courses. Like the Ryder Cup itself, his book is a complete golfing experience. It's almost as good (and, at times, as tense) as actually being there. --Jeff Silverman