Thanks to the adrenaline that comes with playing for your country — or contintent in Europe’s case — the Ryder Cup has become one of golf’s most electric competitions in recent decades. Having the 1991 installment garner the nickname “The War by the Shore” only added to the drama. Same with “The Brawl by the Mall (of America)” in 2016.
OK, so we made that one up, but you get the point. This is (pretty) serious stuff.
So without further ado, here are the Ryder Cup moments that meant the least on paper but the most in our hearts.
Those shirts (1999)
The most hideous golf polos in history were just so happened to be part of the most beautiful US comeback. In the end, it didn’t matter what the Americans were wearing that day at Brookline. They were rolling in putts from all over Massachusetts.
Anyway, you can buy one of these bad boys (emphasis on bad), but it’s going to cost you. A LOT.
Chris Riley tapping out (2004)
This is not to pile on Riley for opting not to play the second session that Saturday after a dominant morning win with Tiger Woods, but again, it wouldn’t have mattered. The Americans got their butts kicked all week, even when Woods played with Phil Mickelson earlier. Woods and Love should have made for a formidable pair that afternoon, but instead they got dusted by Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Tiger has a history of rotating partners — maybe that instability is a big reason for his disappointing Ryder Cup record — but in any event, Riley’s decision is an interesting, if inconsequential, footnote.
Boo’s bull ride (2008)
"Nobody has told him it's the Ryder Cup, he thinks it's the Kentucky Derby!" 🏇
Who remembers Boo Weekley’s dance down the fairway at Valhalla? https://t.co/XNJ6PqaNjp
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) September 13, 2018
Team Europe have had more than their fair share of fine moments during the past four decades, but getting run off the course by arguably the weakest (at least, on paper) American team in recent history while Boo Weekley literally ran around the course imitating Happy Gilmore? A guy who didn’t even know you could concede putts until earlier that year? Yeah, that’s pretty rough.
Anthony Kim’s abrupt exit (2008)
How locked in was Kim during the 2008 Ryder Cup? He didn’t even realise he had beaten Sergio Garcia during their Sunday singles match.
Of course, the match mattered a lot in terms of setting the tone for that final day. But by the time what we’re talking about happened, the match was literally over. That doesn’t mean it still wasn’t awesome. In fact, if we were doing a ranking of the most awesome moments in Ryder Cup history, this would be up there. Miss you, AK. Miss you every day.
BOOM, BABY! (2010)
This trademark celebration from Jeff Overton following a hole-out eagle could have been consequential, but the US got beat (once again) that week anyway. Remember, this was the year they wore those disastrous rainsuits. Those were definitely NOT inconsequential.
JT’s poem (2012)
No, not Justin Thomas, Justin Timberlake … reciting a poem during the opening ceremony … called “Golf” … by some guy named Randy Sabados. And no, it wasn’t well received.
Seriously, whose idea was this?! They brought in one of the greatest entertainers of our time to do … that?! He should have performed “What Goes Around Comes Around” instead. Or “Cry Me A River. .Or, pretty much anything.
Rory’s police escort (2012)
JT voice: I’m bringing sexy Rory back (Yeah)! Actually, this was potentially very consequential. McIlroy barely made it back to Medinah for his Sunday tee time after a “time zone mix-up” thanks to help from local authorities.
And he went on to beat Keegan Bradley, earning a crucial point in Europe’s Miracle at Medinah win. Do we really think Team Europe would have forfeited that match, though? And that Team USA would have accepted that free point? And if so, do you also believe in the Easter Bunny?
Rory’s kilt and wig (2014)
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) September 29, 2014
Everyone focuses on what happened at that gloriously awkward Team USA press conference when Phil Mickelson criticised Tom Watson while sitting a few feet away and rightly so! I was there and it was quite a scene. Despite the matches being over, that moment had its consequences with the Yanks forming a Task Force and taking the event more seriously (not that it helped four years later). So instead, we present a victorious Rory McIlroy wearing a wig and a kilt. And not much else.
Good times. And while we’re talking about good times …
Jamie Donaldson’s interview (2014)
We’ve seen some inebriated winning Ryder Cuppers through the years, but the unlikely hero at Gleneagles was clearly still enjoying things the following morning for this chat.
Ain’t no party like a Euro party, ’cause a Euro party don’t stop.
“The putt” (2016)
Rory missed the putt.
Andy missed the putt.
Fan claimed he could make it … and did!
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 29, 2016
On the eve of the 2016 event, a fan in the gallery at Hazeltine National named David Johnson became a legend.
In fact, this may have broken the confidence of Team Europe. And it certainly fired up that infamous Hazeltine crowd. Maybe it wasn’t so inconsequential after all. If he shows up at Marco Simone, the Europeans better look out.
Phil’s high kick (2016)
We’ll miss Phil in the team room as a vice-captain this year, but now that he’s 53, maybe it’s for the best that he isn’t using teammates as stunt props.
Rickie the bachelor (2016)
One of the greatest photos ever taken:
Rickie Fowler amid a sea of WAGs. Tough spot. Of course, the story has a happy ending. Fowler soon found his future wife, Allison Stokke and, a little while later, his game again.
DJ the photographer (2018)
One of the greatest photos ever taken of someone taking a photo:
Actually, this was kind of a big deal at the time since there were rumours that Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky might be splitting before they were seen together at the Ryder Cup gala and content makers around the globe breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was pretty inconsequential to what happened at Le Golf National, where DJ and the rest of Team USA got their butts kicked, but it was nice to see that love conquers all.
The “Moliwood” bed video (2018)
The fantastic play of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood was the biggest storyline in Paris in 2018 (well, other than Team USA completely self-destructing and Patrick Reed eventually throwing everyone under the bus). But this “Moliwood” moment happened after the event was over, and, it’s, well, see for yourself:
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) October 1, 2018
Molinari returns to the Ryder Cup cauldron as a vice-captain this year and the pair’s reunion is sure to be emotional.
The axe-throwing contest (2019)
The gauntlet was thrown down (literally) ahead of the 2021 Ryder Cup when captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington had an interesting competition to promote the event:
Let’s hope the golfers at Whistling Straits don’t get bored playing ping pong, because that looks dangerous …
Main image: David Cannon