1981 Ryder Cup Winner, Match Scores, Player Records

The 1981 Ryder Cup was the 24th time this tournament was played. Following the Team USA victory, the all-time standings to this point were 20 wins for the United States, three wins for Europe, and one draw.

Final Score: United States 18.5, Europe 9.5

Dates Played: September 18-20, 1981

Golf Course: Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England

Team Captains: John Jacobs for Europe, Dave Marr for the United States

Team Rosters:

  • Europe — Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Canizares, Sam Torrance, Manuel Pinero, Eamonn Darcy, Des Smyth, Howard Clark, Bernard Gallacher, Mark James, Peter Oosterhuis
  • USA — Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Bruce Lietzke, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, Jerry Pate, Ben Crenshaw, Johnny Miller, Bill Rogers, Jack Nicklaus, Larry Nelson
Match Notes: Europe held the lead after Day 1, but the USA carried the match from that point. In the opening Day 2 session, the Americans took the overall lead by winning three of the four matches. Then Team USA swept the afternoon session on Day 2. An 8-4 margin in singles produced the final score.

Some have argued that this was the strongest American side ever. Its players had a combined 36 major championship victories. Of course, 17 of those belonged to Jack Nicklaus, who went 4-0-0 here in his final Ryder Cup playing appearance.

Larry Nelson also went 4-0-0 for Team USA, after going 5-0-0 in the previous Cup. Those nine consecutive wins tied the all-time Ryder Cup record first established by Gardner Dickinson.

Bernhard Langer made the first of his 10 playing appearances for Europe, and Sam Torrance the first of his eight. But Seve Ballesteros was missing from Team Europe, having been voted off the team by the other players because he'd spent most of the year playing in the United States rather than Europe. (They didn't make that mistake again.)

One of the American fourball wins on Day 2 was by Lee Trevino and Jerry Pate over Torrance and Nick Faldo, by a 7-and-5 score. That was (and is) the largest margin of victory in a Ryder Cup fourball.

A couple of family matters to note: Pate and Bruce Lietzke became the first pair of brothers-in-law to both play in any Ryder Cup, and they did it in the same Cup. And USA captain Dave Marr was cousin to Jack Burke Jr., who captained in the 1957 Ryder Cup and 1973 Ryder Cup. They were the first pair of family members to both serve as team captains.

1981 Ryder Cup Results

Day 1

  • Lee Trevino/Larry Nelson, USA, def. Bernhard Langer/Miguel Pinero, Europe, 1-up
  • Sandy Lyle/Mark James, Europe, def. Bill Rogers/Bruce Lietzke, USA, 2 and 1
  • Bernard Gallacher/Des Smyth, Europe, def. Hale Irwin/Raymond Floyd, USA, 3 and 2
  • Tom Watson/Jack Nicklaus, USA, def. Peter Oosterhuis/Nick Faldo, Europe, 4 and 3
Score after first session: Europe 2, USA 2


  • Sam Torrance/Howard Clark, Europe, halved with Tom Kite/Johnny Miller, USA
  • Sandy Lyle/Mark James, Europe, def. Ben Crenshaw/Jerry Pate, USA, 3 and 2
  • Des Smyth/Jose Maria Canizares, Europe, def. Bill Rogers/Bruce Lietzke, U.S, 6 and 5
  • Hale Irwin/Raymond Floyd, USA, def. Bernard Gallacher/Eamonn Darcy, Europe, 2 and 1
Score of second session: Europe 2.5, USA 1.5
Cumulative score after two sessions: Europe 4.5, USA 3.5

Day 2

  • Lee Trevino/Jerry Pate, USA, def. Nick Faldo/Sam Torrance, 7 and 5
  • Larry Nelson/Tom Kite, USA, def. Sandy Lyle/Mark James, Europe, 1-up
  • Bernhard Langer/Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Raymond Floyd/Hale Irwin, USA, 2 and 1
  • Jack Nicklaus/Tom Watson, USA, def. Jose Maria Canizares/Des Smyth, Europe, 3 and 2
Score of third session: USA 3, Europe 1
Cumulative score after three sessions: USA 6.5, Europe 5.5


  • Lee Trevino/Jerry Pate, USA, def. Peter Oosterhuis/Sam Torrance, Europe, 2 and 1
  • Jack Nicklaus/Tom Watson, USA, def. Bernhard Langer/Miguel Pinero, Europe, 3 and 2
  • Bill Rogers/Raymond Floyd, USA, def. Sandy Lyle/Mark James, Europe, 3 and 2
  • Tom Kite/Larry Nelson, USA, def. Des Smyth/Bernhard Gallacher, Europe, 3 and 2
Score of fourth session: USA 4, Europe 0
Cumulative score after four sessions: USA 10.5, Europe 5.5

Day 3

  • Lee Trevino, USA, def. Sam Torrance, Europe, 5 and 3
  • Tom Kite, USA, def. Sandy Lyle, Europe, 3 and 2
  • Bernhard Gallacher, Europe, halved with Bill Rogers, USA
  • Larry Nelson, USA, def. Mark James, Europe, 2-up
  • Ben Crenshaw, USA, def. Des Smyth, Europe, 6 and 4
  • Bernhard Langer, Europe, halved with Bruce Lietzke, USA
  • Miguel Pinero, Europe, def. Jerry Pate, USA, 4 and 2
  • Hale Irwin, USA, def. Jose Maria Canizares, Europe, 1-up
  • Nick Faldo, Europe, def. Johnny Miller, USA, 2 and 1
  • Howard Clark, Europe, def. Tom Watson, USA, 4 and 3
  • Raymond Floyd, USA, def. Peter Oosterhuis, Europe, 1-up
  • Jack Nicklaus, USA, def. Eamonn Darcy, Europe, 5 and 3
Score of fifth session: USA 8, Europe 4
Overall and final score: USA 18.5, Europe 9.5

1981 Ryder Cup Player Records

(Records are listed as wins-losses-halves.)

Ben Crenshaw, 1-1-0
Raymond Floyd, 3-2-0
Hale Irwin, 2-2-0
Tom Kite, 3-0-1
Bruce Lietzke, 0-2-1
Johnny Miller, 0-1-1
Larry Nelson, 4-0-0
Jack Nicklaus, 4-0-0
Jerry Pate, 2-2-0
Bill Rogers, 1-2-1
Lee Trevino, 4-0-0
Tom Watson, 3-1-0

Jose Maria Canizares, 1-2-0
Howard Clark, 1-0-1
Eamonn Darcy, 0-2-0
Nick Faldo, 1-2-0
Bernard Gallacher, 1-2-1
Mark James, 2-3-0
Bernhard Langer, 1-2-1
Sandy Lyle, 2-3-0
Peter Oosterhuis, 0-3-0
Manuel Pinero, 2-2-0
Des Smyth, 2-3-0
Sam Torrance, 0-3-1

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