- September 29 down the years
The War by the Shore
The most dramatic putt in any Ryder Cup - one that became known as the War by the Shore. All golfers miss them. At one stage in his career, no-one more so than Bernhard Langer. From around the time he won the Masters in 1985 ( April 14) to the early nineties, he got the yips so badly he could hardly hit the ball. A change in grip cured the problem, and there was no-one Europe would rather have had standing over a putt to decide the Ryder Cup. They'd kept it since 1985 ( September 15), but they were held to a draw in 1989 ( September 24), and things were just as tight on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. Europe trailed by a point after the first day (the dream team of Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam lost both its matches) but were level after the second and won two early singles through David Feherty and Faldo. Then the USA made one of their patented comebacks, and everything came down to the last hole of the match between Langer and Hale Irwin, with the German needing to sink a four-footer to keep the Cup in Europe. There were two spike marks in the line of the putt, so Langer aimed just past them, hit the ball firmly (no Return of the Dreaded Yips here) - and it touched the right-hand lip of the hole on its way past. Irwin escaped with a half and the US won 14½-13½, which gave Paul Azinger the chance to make some crass comparisons with the invasion of Kuwait ('the Golf War', geddit?) and Seve Ballesteros to claim that no-one could have made that putt. Not Nicklaus, not anyone. Supportive words, but quite untrue. Pressure for sure, but a bottom line of only four feet from the hole. Still, Langer's scars healed very quickly. He won the German Masters a week later, the real thing at Augusta in 1993 ( April 11), and was there again eleven years later...
...when the Ryder Cup was postponed a year until 2002 on account of the terror attacks in New York. The match took place at The Belfry, scene of Europe's seminal win in 1985 ( September 15). The scores were tied at 8-all after two days, leaving Europe needing to win the singles to regain the trophy. Colin Montgomerie maintained his great Ryder Cup record by beating Scott Hoch 5 & 4, but things were tight for the first few matches. Then Langer beat Hal Sutton 4 & 3, and Europe lost only two of the twelve. Five were halved, but the USA lost five of the others and the Cup 15½-12½.
Two golds for British sailors at the Olympic Games.
In the Laser class four years earlier, 19-year-old Ben Ainslie had been in second place with one race to go. To maintain his lead, Brazil's Robert Scheidt used the black arts rather than straight sailing skills. After four false starts, competitors were warned that anyone crossing the start line prematurely would be disqualified. Nevertheless Scheidt sprinted for the start. Ainslie couldn't afford to let him get too far ahead, so he chased after him. They both went over the line too early and the double disqualification left Scheidt with the gold medal. Today in Sydney, it went down to the final race again, and this time the only way Ainslie could win was to stop Scheidt finishing higher than 22nd. It looked an impossible job, but Ainslie was no more mister nice guy. He began by forcing Scheidt into a foul which cost him valuable seconds, then stayed with him as the rest of the field disappeared over the horizon. A desperate Scheidt bumped Ainslie's boat and chased after them, but he finished only 22nd. Brazilian protests were thrown out, Scheidt was disqualified, and had to settle for silver. He won the gold back four years later - but only because Ainslie was away winning one in another boat ( August 21).
In the Europe class, Scotland's Shirley Robertson had finished fourth four years earlier. Now she needed fourth place again - in either of the last two races. She managed only 16th in the first of these, and was only in fifth at the halfway point of the last - this while Holland's Margriet Matthijsse was winning the last three. But Robertson worked her way through to third to take the gold. Four years later, she won a second one with two other 'blondes in a boat' ( August 20).
On the running track, Moroccan superman Hicham El-Guerrouj must have been believing he'd never win Olympic gold. In 1996 he'd fallen over in the 1500 metres ( August 3). He went into today's final as world champion and world record holder, beaten only once since those Atlanta Games. With 600 metres to go, El-Guerrouj made his usual strong long run for home. But he couldn't shake off Kenya's Noah Ngeny, who edged ahead with 25 yards to go. For the second Olympics in a row, El-Guerrouj was left in tears. Three years later, he won his fourth world title in a row, and was back for another crack at Olympic gold in 2004 ( August 24). In two events.
In the men's pole vault, four competitors cleared the winning height of 5.90 metres, which was followed by 15 missed attempts. When the dust settled, Nick Hysong was the first American vaulter to win Olympic gold since 1968. A second bus came along with him: team mate Lawrence Johnson took the silver.
The inaugural Olympic women's hammer throw was won by 17-year-old Kamila Skolimowska from Poland. Just before the qualifying round, Romanian world record holder Mihaela Melinte was banned from competing after failing a drugs test, which left Russia's Olga Kuzenkova as heavy favourite. But she threw well below her best, while Skolimowska reached 71.16 metres in the third round. At the 1998 World Junior Championships, Skolimowska had three no-throws. At the 2000 World Juniors, she threw two more before finally landing a legitimate throw, a 51.84 that didn't qualify her for the final.
Ricardo López of Mexico had his 26th world title fight, a record for any boxer who never lost one. Here in Madison Square Gardens, he retained his IBF light-flyweight belt by knocking out South African Zolani Petelo in the eighth round. It was also a last world title fight for famous referee Arthur Mercante, who was 81 by then.
But the big fight on the same bill was the summit meeting between two of the top boxers of the day. Bernard Hopkins was recognised as world middleweight champion by the WBC and IBF, Félix Trinidad by the WBA. At stake, confusingly, were Hopkins' belts and the WBA 'super' title. The skilful Trinidad was unbeaten in 40 pro fights and facing a man who was 36 years old. But Hopkins was a pitiless master, miles ahead on points when Trinidad's dad climbed into the ring to stop the fight in the last round. It was Trinidad's last world title bout but only a staging post for Hopkins, who was still fighting for world titles five years later.
A lot of 'lasts' at the rugby union World Cup.
In Nantes, Gareth Thomas won his 100th and last cap for Wales. He won his first at the 1995 World Cup, scoring three tries against Japan ( May 27). He got another one today, his 40th for Wales, and they scored five in all - but they still lost 38-34 to Fiji, who scored four tries while Nicky Little kicked 18 points. The result sent Fiji into the quarter finals at Wales' expense.
Over in Saint Étienne, scrum-half Alessandro Troncon also scored a try in his last international match. Making his 101st appearance for Italy, he went over for the only try of the match - but Italy lacked enough quality to beat a very ordinary Scotland team, and Chris Paterson's six penalty goals won the match 18-16. Troncon had won his 100th cap ten days earlier and scored his first international try thirteen years before ( May 18). This was the 67th time he finished on the losing side, a world record.
On the same day but at the other end of the success-failure scale, scrum-half George Gregan came on as sub to finish on the winning side for the 93rd time, another world record that still stands. And Chris Latham also scored his 40th and last try in internationals: one of six as Australia beat Canada 37-6 to set up a quarter-final against some underdogs from England.
Flying winger Doug Howlett also scored his last try at this level. He'd scored three in the first group match against Italy, two in the second against Scotland, and now came off the bench to add his 49th in all internationals, still the record for New Zealand. Howlett's partner in pace, Joe Rokocoko, scored three of the All Blacks' thirteen tries as they bashed Romania 85-8 in Toulouse.
Trying to win his third Olympic gold medal, Daley Thompson came up short of the medals. Decathlon champion in 1980 ( July 26) and 1984 ( August 9), he began with a typically fast 100 metres in 10.62 seconds, but his long jump was way below his best and no-one could match the very tall East Germany Christian Schenk in the high jump, where he cleared a colossal 2.27 metres using the old straddle technique. Thompson finished the day with a substandard 400 metres which left him in third place overall, and although he gained on Schenk in the hurdles, pole vault and javelin, he was 78 points behind with only the 1500 metres to come - and that was never a Daley favourite. Schenk won gold with only 8,488 points, 359 fewer than Thompson's world record from the previous Games. World champion and fellow East German Torsten Voss took silver, and Thompson lost bronze by 22 points to Canada's Dave Steen.
Also in track and field, four days after winning the 100 metres in a grotesquely fast time, Florence Griffith-Joyner completed the sprint double by running 200 metres in an obscene world record of 21.34 seconds that's likely to be with us for years to come. Tall Jamaican Grace Jackson ran 21.72, fast enough to win at any other Olympics, and finished four yards behind.
On the same day, Jackie Joyner-Kersee made it a family double by winning the long jump. Flo-Jo's sister-in-law won the long jump with a monstrous 7.40 metres, an Olympic record that's unlikely to be approached in the near future. In 2008 a jump of 7.04 was enough for gold.
And East Germany's Martina Hellmann won the discus with another Olympic record that still stands, an equally head-shaking 72.30 metres. The event was won with 64.74 in 2008.