The Ryder Cup’s All-Time Best Players

The Ryder Cup is back and ready for excitement in Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits. The world’s best golfers from the United States and Europe will be on hand. In fact, several of them are among the greatest in the history of this legendary and popular event. The Ryder cup was postponed in 2020.

Here are our top 20 golfers in Ryder Cup history.

20. Jimmy Demaret (United States)

Probably not a household name to the casual golf fan. This is probably not the case for those who consider themselves stubborn. Anyway, here’s a history lesson. Demaret, a three-time Masters champion, was part of three Ryder Cup teams that won the Americans in 1947, ’49, and ’51. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Demaret posted an unblemished 6-0-0 overall record, splitting those wins between singles and doubles matches.

19. Hale Irwin (United States)

Lost in the collective mass of fellow American golf giants, Irwin put together quite the Ryder Cup resume. With an overall record of 13-5-2 and 14 points (10th-best by an American) in that tournament, Irwin posted one of the best Ryder Cup percentages at 70.0. Perhaps more importantly, in five appearances (1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1991) on the United States Ryder Cup team, the three-time major winner never lost the title.

 Hale Irwin

18. Peter Oosterhuis (Europe)

The venerable Oosterhuis played in six Ryder Cups from 1971-81, appearing in 28 matches and posting a 14-11-3 record. While the Englishman’s 15 1/2 points are among the most in European Ryder Cup history, Oosterhuis is being celebrated for his success in singles competition. His six singles victories are tied for the most among European golfers, and he has lost only two of the nine such matches he has played in the tournament.

 Peter Oosterhuis

17. José María Olazábal (Europe)

On this list, we will feature the first of two legendary golfers from Spain. Olazabal was a seven-time Ryder Cup participant (1987-’06) and captained in 2012. He played in 31 matches and is one of seven European golfers to record at least 20 points (20 1/2) in a career. Olazabal’s 18-8-5 is worthy of celebration, and his nine wins in four-ball matches rank second in Team European history.

16. Gene Littler (United States)

Hall-of-Famer Littler is a regular presence when it comes to being the all-time leader in the U.S. Ryder Cup. He played in seven Ryder Cups from 1961-75 (winning six), and his 18 points are the seventh most among all American participants, while his 6 1/2 points earned in singles rank fourth all-time. Littler, the 1961 US Open champion, finished his Ryder Cup career with a solid overall record of 14-5-8.

15. Sam Snead (United States)

The great Sam Snead appeared in seven Ryder Cups from 1937-59. His U.S. team won all seven of those events, with Snead serving as player-captain in 1951 and 59. The seven-time major champion, who posted a 10-2-1 overall Ryder Cup record — with six in singles matches — also captained Team USA from 1969, which in this particular case was tied by the European team.

14. Tim Kite (United States)

The stalwart Kite won just one major (1992 US Open) during his solid PGA Tour career but made seven Ryder Cup appearances as a player (four wins, three ties) from 1979-93 and once as the winning captain in 1997. And Kite was certainly ready to play, ranking seventh in US history with 15 total wins, including a strong 5-0-2 mark in singles play. His 17 Ryder Cup total points also rank seventh all-time.

13. Jack Nicklaus (United States of America)

The legendary Golden Bear has naturally been a factor in the Ryder Cup field, but perhaps not as prolific as one might think considering he won a record 18 major titles. Nicklaus played in six Ryder Cups from 1969-1981 (winning five), played in 28 matches, and scored 18 1/2 points – the latter tied for seventh among American golfers. His 17 total wins are tied for fifth. Nicklaus also captained two American teams (1983, ’87).

12. Seve Ballesteros (Europe)

One of the all-time greats, the late Ballesteros, a five-time major champion, left an indelible mark on the history of the European Ryder Cup. The beloved Spaniard was part of eight Ryder Cup teams as a player and captained Team Europe in 2005 and 2007. In Ryder Cup matches played (37), points (22 1/2), and victories (20), he ranks among the European leaders. Ballesteros and the aforementioned compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal have been paired (15) more than any other participant in the Ryder Cup – a total of 12 points with a record of 11-2-2.

11. Lee Trevino (United States)

Ryder Cup great Lee Trevino’s resume is quite similar to that of his friend Jack Nicklaus. Like the Golden Bear, Trevino played in the Ryder Cup six times from 1969-81 and recorded 17 victories overall. Trevino, meanwhile, is one of only eight American golfers to play 30 or more Ryder Cup matches and ranks fifth in U.S. history with 20 points accumulated during the prestigious event. The six-time major winner was also the captain in 1985.

10. Lee Westwood (Europe)

Westwood may go down as the greatest golfer never to win a major, but the Ryder Cup will certainly be the pinnacle of his overall stellar golfing legacy. He is going for his 11th Ryder Cup appearance (1997-2021, with seven wins), which would tie Westwood with most European golfers. Meanwhile, his 44 games played ranks second in Team Europe history and his 23 points are fifth all-time. He is also one of six European golfers to have won at least 20 Ryder Cup matches

9. Phil Mickelson (United States)

No golfer – American or European – in Ryder Cup history has played more in the tournament than Mickelson’s 12. Although Lefty’s Ryder playing days appear to be over, his legacy will always be celebrated. His 47 matches played are also a Ryder Cup record. While Mickelson is 18-22-17 overall, his 21 1/2 points are tied for third among American golfers and tied for fourth in wins.

8. Bernhard Langer (Europe)

Bernhard Langer’s 10 Ryder Cup appearances make him one of five golfers — from the U.S. or Europe — to record at least that many in the event’s history. Six teams either won or retained the cup, while Langer also led the 2004 European team to victory. In Team Europe history, Langer’s 42 Ryder Cup matches, 24 points, and 21 wins rank third. This made him one of the most successful golfers in the overall history of the Ryder Cup.

7. Lanny Wadkins (United States)

A 21-time winner on the PGA Tour and a PGA Championship victory in 1977, Wadkins enjoyed a stellar Hall of Fame career. However, the most lasting aspect of Wadkins’ legacy may be his overall work at the Ryder Cup. His eight Ryder Cup appearances (1977-’93) are tied for third-most among American golfers, and his 34 matches played are tied for fourth. Wadkins’ 20 wins are tied for second in the U.S., while his 21 1/2 points are tied with Mickels

6. Colin Montgomery (Europe)

From 1991-2006, “Monty” made eight Ryder Cup appearances and was one of the most impressive golfers in the event’s history. The Scot won five of those tournaments as a player and captained Europe to the 2010 Cup. Montgomerie’s 23 1/2 points rank him fourth in European Ryder Cup history and tied for the same spot with 20 wins. However, what really sets Montgomery apart is his stellar 6-0-2 mark in singles play.

5. Arnold Palmer (United States of America)

Yes, Arnold Palmer accomplished everything a golfer could wish for—seven major championships, 62 career PGA Tour wins, a four-time Tour money winner, and PGA Player of the Year in 1960 and ’62. Then there’s the Ryder Cup, a chapter unto itself for Palmer. He made six Ryder Cup teams, but his 32 games are sixth behind the U.S. and his 23 points are second. Finally, Palmer’s 22 wins are the most by any American in Ryder Cup history and are tied with Lanny Wadkins’ nine in four matches for the all-time most 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” is set to make his seventh Ryder Cup appearance (2004-2021), with him and his European teammates winning five times. The usually exuberant Poulter’s most famous Ryder Cup moment probably came in 2018 when he beat then-world no. Dustin Johnson at No. 1 singles helps Team Europe lift the cup. In his career, Poulter has 15 points from 22 matches and is a strong 5-0-1 in singles competition.

3. Billy Casper (United States of America)

Billy  Casper played on eight Ryder Cup teams from 1961-75. Each American team lifted the cup, and Casper also led Team USA to victory in 1979. In the annals of U.S. Ryder Cup history, Casper leads with 23 1/2 points and is tied for second with 37 matches played and tied for second (behind Lanny Wadkins) with 20 total wins. 

2. Sergio Garcia (Europe)

Sergio may have one major title to his credit, but he’s pretty much legendary when it comes to Ryder Cup greats. The popular Spaniard is still the youngest golfer from either team to make his Ryder Cup debut at 19 years and 258 days during the 1999 tournament. He is also the all-time leader with 25 1/2 points. Garcia is making his 10th Ryder Cup appearance and has been part of six winning teams. They also rank among the European leaders in matches (41) and total victories (23)

1. Nick Faldo (Europe)

Only Phil Mickelson has played more Ryder Cups than Faldo’s 11. Those came from 1977-97. Now a six-time major winner, Faldo has only lifted the cup in five of those years and didn’t win when he captained Team Europe in 2008. That means on the individual front, Faldo’s 46 games played are the most of any European, and his 25 points second only to Sergio Garcia, Faldo’s 23 victories are still the most of any European golfer.

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