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Top five greatest Ryder Cups

With the 40th Ryder Cup now underway, Sports Mole looks back at five of the greatest previous editions from the historic biennial event.

The 40th Ryder Cup is finally underway at Gleneagles as Europe and USA battle it out in a tournament many consider to be the greatest spectacle in golf.

This year, Scotland hosts the biennial event for just the second time, with Europe hoping to retain the trophy following their remarkable success two years ago.

History will undoubtedly be made at the PGA Centenary Course as the USA look to wrestle the Cup back from Europe, who have won seven of the last nine contests.

Here, Sports Mole looks at five of the greatest tournaments in years gone by ahead of what is sure to be another memorable Ryder Cup weekend.

1. The Miracle of Medinah (2012)

Ian Poulter of Europe celebrates with his caddie Terry Mundy after making birdie on day two of the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah on September 29, 2012© Getty Images

The most recent edition of the tournament provided arguably the greatest drama of them all as Europe triumphed on American soil in the most unlikely of circumstances. Jose Maria Olazabal's team were 10-4 down after 14 matches as USA looked to be easing to victory in Illinois.

However, an emotional and theatrical display by Ian Poulter on the Saturday, in which he birdied each of his final five holes to turn defeat into a victory, inspired the rest of the team to put in one of the greatest ever final-day performances.

Europe staged the largest comeback in the competition's history to clinch a dramatic victory, overturning the six-point deficit to eventually win 14.5 to 13.5. Martin Kaymer - the final player to automatically qualify for the tournament and someone who had played in just one of the previous four sessions - holed a six-foot putt to ensure his side retained the Cup.

Francesco Molinari then halved his hole against Tiger Woods to secure the outright victory - an event now known as the Miracle/Meltdown of Medinah depending on which side you support. Poulter, meanwhile, ended the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record and was widely regarded as the star of the show.

2. The Concession (1969)

The 1969 Ryder Cup was one of the most competitive in the tournament's history, with no fewer than 18 of the 32 matches going to the last green. Fittingly, it came down to the final match, with Jack Nicklaus taking on Open winner Tony Jacklin with the scores tied at 15.5 apiece.

Jacklin sunk a 35-foot eagle putt on the 17th to ensure that the scores were level going into the final hole at Royal Birkdale - a par-five that saw both players get to the green in two shots. Both missed their first putt, but Nicklaus piled the pressure on his English opponent by making his birdie.

With Jacklin facing a two-foot putt to avoid outright defeat, Nicklaus produced one of the greatest moments of sportsmanship in the game's history as he conceded the shot, meaning that the match was tied. The Americans retained the Cup as a result, although many of the team were still unhappy with Nicklaus's decision not to allow Jacklin the chance to miss.

Afterwards, Nicklaus explained his decision to Jacklin by saying: "I don't think you would have missed that putt, but in these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity." It was the first tie in Ryder Cup history, and has since became known simply as 'The Concession'.

3. The War on the Shore (1991)

Agony for Bernhard Langer of the European team as he misses a putt to win his Final Day Singles match in the Ryder Cup on September 29, 1991© Getty Images

Tensions between the USA and Europe had steadily been growing throughout the years, and they had never been higher going into the 1991 event at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Europe were angered by an allegedly pro-USA video at the ceremonial opening dinner, while the bad blood continued on the opening morning as Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal played out a spiky foursome match against Paul Azinger and Chip Beck.

The drama continued throughout the tournament, and once again it all came down to the final hole as Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer faced off. With the scores tied at the 18th, Irwin simply needed to win or tie the hole to retain the Cup for the Americans.

With both players having struggled on the hole, Langer surprised everyone by conceding an 18-inch putt to Irwin. That meant that the German had to make his own six-foot putt to clinch the Ryder Cup for Europe, but he missed in one of the most dramatic moments in golf history as USA triumphed 14.5-13.5.

4. The Battle of Brookline (1999)

US Ryder Cup team member Justin Leonard celebrates his putt against Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain on the 17th hole that clinched the victory for the US in the 33rd Ryder Cup 26 September, 1999© Getty Images

The closest USA have come to their own 'Miracle of Medinah', the 1999 tournament at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts saw the Americans launch a stirring final-day comeback from 10-6 down to seal their first Cup victory since 1993.

Ben Crenshaw's side won the first seven matches on the Sunday, but still needed at least a half from Justin Leonard to clinch the trophy. Things looked grim for the American going into the back nine as he trailed by four shots, but a comeback of his own saw him go into the 17th all square.

Olazabal still appeared to have the upper hand when Leonard left himself 45 foot short of the hole for a birdie putt, but he made the incredible shot to spark wild scenes of celebration from the American team and spectators. Once the scene had died down, Olazabal missed his shot, although the Europeans were left angered by the exuberant nature of their opponents' celebrations.

5. USA's dominance ends (1985)

 Torrance of the European Team celebrates after holing the putt on 18 to secure victory in the Ryder Cup on September 15, 1985© Getty Images

Europe had come agonisingly close to beating the Americans in their own back yard two years previously, but they built on that performance at The Belfry in 1985 to finally triumph over USA for the first time in 28 years.

The hosts took a two-point lead into the Sunday singles and went on to extend that advantage throughout the day. There were still five matches to play when Sam Torrance stepped up on the 18th to hole a 22-foot putt and beat Andy North to put his side 14.5 to 8.5 ahead.

That six-point margin was an unassailable one for the Americans, and Torrance's pose of arms aloft with tears flowing down his cheeks remains one of the immortal images in Europe's Ryder Cup history. It proved to be a turning point in the competition, with nine of the subsequent 13 editions being won by Europe.

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The 2014 European Ryder Cup team and captain Paul McGinley pose for a photo at Gleneagles ahead of the event on September 23, 2014
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