What players have the best records in Ryder Cup history? Appearances, matches, points...
The Ryder Cup is almost here and with that, we’re taking a look at the greatest players to represent both the U.S.A. and Europe in the tournament’s history.
In the 96 years since it’s very first edition, the Ryder Cup has produced some of golf’s most memorable moments. In the 2023 edition, we will bear witness to one of the most balanced fields in recent memory, but who were the stars of times past?
Honorable mentions from Ryder Cup history
It’s been almost a century since the very first Ryder Cup was staged back in 1927 and as you can imagine a whole lot has happened since. Changes to formats, the inclusion of players from continental Europe - the tournament’s predecessor was contested only by players from the U.S.A. and Great Britain - and of course the evolution of the game itself. To that end, we’ve seen a number of men rise from the ranks to become true legends of the game. It is within that context that we’ve created a list that you will see below. Yet, we also thought it worth mentioning a few players who may not be on the list but are no less worthy of recognition.
Jimmy Demaret (United States)
If you don’t know his name, we won’t judge you, but Jimmy Demaret was not only a three-time Masters champion but also part of three victorious American teams in the Ryder Cup (1947, 1949, and 1951). Even better is the fact that he also posted an impeccable record of 6-0-0 overall, meaning those wins were split between Singles and Foursome matches.
José María Olazábal (Europe)
One of Spain’s greatest golfers, José María Olazábal was a Ryder Cup participant on seven occasions between 1987 and 2006 and served as captain in 2012. Having competed in 31 matches, he remains one of just seven European golfers to record at least 20 points (20 1/2) across a career. Olazabal’s 18-8-5 is well worthy of celebrating, and his nine wins in Fourball matches rank second in the history of Team Europe.
Jack Nicklaus (United States)
Of course the ‘Golden Bear’ had to be here somewhere. It might be strange to find him among those being honorably mentioned rather than on our list itself, especially when you consider that he won an unbelievable 18 major titles, but Nicklaus wasn’t as prolific in the Ryder Cup. That being said, he played in six of them between 1969 and 1981 winning the tournament five times. In a total of 28 matches he registered 18 1/2 points - the latter of which ranks seventh among American golfers. Nicklaus also captained two U.S. teams (1983 and 1987).
Steve Ballesteros (Europe)
The late legend is without a doubt one of the greatest golfers of all time. A five-time major champion and one whose effect on European Ryder Cup history will always be held in high regard. Indeed, like his above-mentioned compatriot, the Spaniard was an icon of the tournament, playing in eight tournaments and of course, captaining Team Europe in two of those (2005 and 2007). To this day Steve Ballesteros sits among the leaders in European Ryder Cup play with 37 matches played, 22 1/2 points accumulated, and 20 victories.
The top 10 Ryder Cup players in history
With no further ado, it’s time to take a look at the men we believe are the greatest to have appeared in the Ryder Cup’s storied history. From a certain Masters winning Spaniard, to a divisive American, this list features some of golf’s most elite players.
10. Lee Westwood (Europe)
Often regarded as the best golfer never to win a major, Lee Westwood’s Ryder Cup performances have dispelled any doubts that one might have about his pedigree. With 10 appearances between 1997 and 2021 he has played 44 matches which is ranked second in Team Europe’s history, while his 23 points are ranked fifth all-time. Westwood is one of just six European golfers to have won at least 20 Ryder Cup matches.
9. Phil Mickelson (United States)
Despite the recent division caused by his decision to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, there is quite frankly no golfer from either the U.S.A. or Europe that has made more Ryder Cup appearances than Mickelson who has 12. Though it’s likely that we won’t see ‘Lefty’ in the tournament again, no golf fan will ever forget the performances he gave them. The 47 matches that he has played are also a Ryder Cup record, while Mickelson 18-22-17 overall mark and his 21 1/2 points are tied for third among American golfers.
8. Bernhard Langer (Europe)
With 10 Ryder Cup appearances, Langer is one of five golfers - from the U.S. or Europe - to record at least that many in the history of the event. What’s more, is that six of those teams either won or retained the Cup. Indeed, as captain of team Europe, Langer won the 2004 edition of the tournament. Where history is concerned, he played in 42 Ryder Cup matches, amassed 24 points, and clinched 21 victories all of which rank third.
7. Lanny Wadkins (United States)
A golf Hall-of-Famer who won 21 times on the PGA Tour in the 1977 PGA Championship, Wadkins simply sensational. Yet, what many will likely remember him for is the way in which he performed in the Ryder Cup. Across his eight appearances between 1977 and and 1993, he played in 34 matches during which time he registered 20 victories - tied for second in Team U.S.A. history and amassed 21 1/2 points which are with Mickelson for third. In total he won the Ryder Cup five times and was captain once in 1995.
6. Colin Montgomerie (Europe)
Between 1991 and 2006, the man known to fans as “Monty” made eight Ryder Cup appearances and was one of the more prolific players in the tournament’s history. In total Montgomerie won five of those torunaments as a player and one as captain (2010). Monty’s 23 1/2 points ranked fourth all-time in European Ryder Cup history, and his 20 wins are tied for the same spot. Yet, perhaps the thing that makes him truly memorable is his 6-0-2 mark in Singles’ play.
5. Arnold Palmer (United States)
Like Nicklaus, there are few careers in golf that can compare to Arnold Palmer’s. With seven major championships, 62 career PGA Tour wins, four-time Tour money winner, and PGA Player of the Year in 1960 and ‘62, Palmer was a legend of the game. His Ryder Cup contribution was no less iconic. In total Palmer played in six Ryder Cup teams, with his 32 matches ranking sixth for the U.S. and his 23 points ranking second. Where his victories are concerned, the 22 that Palmer registered are the most by any American in the tournament’s history, while his nine in Foursome matches equal Lanny Wadkins for the most all-time by an American golfer.
4. Ian Poulter (Europe)
If there’s a golfer made for the spirit and competitiveness of the Ryder Cup, it’s Poulter. “The Postman” has won the tournament on five occasions, but will likely always be remembered for the manner in which he defeated then-world-No. 1 Dustin Johnson in 2018. Indeed, that Singles play victory secured the Cup for Team Europe. In total, Poulter has bagged 15 points from 22 matches with an impressive 5-0-1 record.
3. Billy Casper (United States)
From 1961-’75, Billy Casper played on eight Ryder Cup teams. Each of those U.S. teams won the Cup. Truth be told, when it comes to U.S. Ryder Cup history, Casper leads the way with 23 1/2 points and is tied for second with 37 matches played - he also shares second with Lanny Wadkins with 20 overall wins. Casper’s six Singles are also tied for the most by an American.
2. Sergio Garcia (Europe)
Regardless of where you stand on the Spaniard’s CV when it comes to the tour, his Ryder Cup showings have been simply mythical. Sergio Garcia is still the youngest golfer from either team to debut in the Ryder Cup - he was 19 years, 258 days during the 1999 event - and he’s also the event’s all-time leader with 25 1/2 points. Though he won’t be playing in 2023, he has been a part of six winning teams, while his 41 matches rank among Europe’s leaders as do his 23 total wins.
1. Nick Faldo (Europe)
When it comes to appearances, only Phil Mickelson has made more Ryder Cup appearances than Nick Faldo’s 11 which came between 1977 and 1997. The six-time major winner hoisted the Cup in only five of those years and failed to win when he captained Team Europe in 2008, however, when it comes to his individual performance, Faldo’s 46 matches played are the most of any European, and his 25 points trail only Sergio Garcia. To this day, Faldo’s 23 victories are still the most among any European golfer.