Christy O’Connor Jr. of Ireland, whose greatest moment in golf came in the 1989 Ryder Cup, died while on vacation in the Canary Island off the coast of Spain. He was 67.
O’Connor hit a brilliant 2-iron approach shot from 229 yards to within 3 1/2 feet to set up a birdie on the 18th hole at The Belfry and beat Fred Couples, 1 up, allowing Europe to retain the Ryder Cup with a 14-14 tie.
“No one will ever forget Christy O’Connor’s two-iron from the middle of the 18th fairway at the Belfry which retained the 1989 Ryder Cup for Team Europe,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement.
“It is an image that will remain fixed forever in the minds of all Irish golf and sporting fans.”
O’Connor, nephew of 91-year-old Ryder Cup star Christy O’Connor Sr., passed away in his sleep while on holiday with his wife, Ann, in Tenerife, Spain.
A native of Galway, Ireland, O’Connor Jr. won 17 times in his pro career, including four titles on the European Tour, the biggest in a playoff over Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe in the 1992 Dunhill British Masters when he was the oldest player in the field at 44.
O’Connor Jr. also won the State Farm Insurance Classic and the Foremost Insurance Classic on what is now the Champions Tour, both in 1999, and his last victory came when he won the Senior British Open for the second straight year in 1999.
His best result in a major championship was a tie for third in the 1985 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, where he finished two strokes behind champion Sandy Lyle of Scotland.
O’Connor Jr. held a two-stroke lead over Lyle and four others after opening with a 6-under-par 64, but in the long run was done in by a second-round 76.