The 10 Wackiest Ryder Cup moments

Justin Leonard, 1999 Ryder Cup
Bob Martin
The U.S. team charges the green in celebration after Justin Leonard hit a 45-foot putt at Brookline to win the '99 Cup.

Wild finishes are a staple of recent Ryder Cup Matches, but the event has also witnessed its share of weird and zany moments. Here are my top 10.

1. It ain't over till it's over. Justin Leonard capped an improbable comeback by draining a 45-foot putt at The Country Club's historic 17th hole in 1999, prompting a raucous celebration in which players, wives and caddies stormed the green, despite the fact that Jose Maria Olazabal had his own 25-foot attempt that would have continued the match.
 

Hale Irwin
Jacqueline Duvoisin/SI
Hale Irwin received a fortuitous bounce during the 1991 Cup when his ball hit a spectator and ended up in the fairway.

2. Job Security. Everybody remembers Bernhard Langer's missed 6-foot putt to lose the 1991 Cup, the "War by the Shore" at Kiawah, but few recall that his opponent, Hale Irwin, earned a lucky break when his yanked drive struck a spectator and bounded back into the 18th fairway. The spectator happened to be Kathy Jorden, a public relations specialist with the PGA of America, under whose auspices the match was conducted.

3. Priority One. Officials suspended play on Day 2 at the 1951 Cup at Pinehurst so that both teams could attend the Tennessee-North Carolina football game in Chapel Hill, N.C. Oddly, the U.S. team stayed put, presumably to practice, and only the Brits traveled to the game, won by top-ranked Tennessee, 27-0.

4. Chariots of Fire. Fitness pioneers Frank Stranahan, Gary Player and Tiger Woods had nothing on the 1933 Great Britain team; captain J.H. Taylor enlisted a physical trainer and had his squad running at 6:30 every morning along the Southport Beach adjacent to host venue Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club in Lancashire, England. Worms to the early birds, who edged the U.S., 6 1/2 to 5 1/2.

5. Play it as it lies. In the 1931 Ryder Cup at Scioto in Columbus, Ohio, Gene Sarazen misfired his tee shot on the par-3 fourth into a refreshment stand; from a groove in the concrete floor, Sarazen "Ty Webb-ed" it through an open window and onto the green, 10 feet from the cup, on his way to a 7-and-6 shellacking of luckless Fred Robson.
 

2010 Cup
Robert Beck/SI
Phil Mickelson and the U.S. team got soaked when their rainsuits failed them at the 2010 Cup.

6. When it rains, it pours. When Nick Faldo was informed that the 2010 matches had been awarded to Wales, he indelicately remarked, "Bring your wellies." Rather than being castigated for his jab, he should have been congratulated. It poured early and often, most tragic-comically on Friday morning, when it soaked the Americans' incomprehensibly porous rain suits. During a delay, the Yanks purchased new suits in the merchandise tents that actually stayed dry, charging all 20 -- at roughly $300 a pop -- to the PGA of America.

7. Rumble at Birkdale. Sportmanship may have prevailed at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when Jack Nicklaus conceded Tony Jacklin's two-and-a-half-foot putt, but earlier on, in the afternoon fourball, Dave Hill and Ken Still traded insults and nearly came to fisticuffs with Brian Huggett and Bernard Gallacher; at one point, Still knocked aside Gallacher's ball marker and shouted, "You can have the hole -- and the Goddamn Cup!"

8. Yes, we have no bananas. Miguel Angel Jimenez served as non-playing assistant to captain Seve Ballesteros in 1997 at Valderrama. One of his tasks was to carry and distribute bananas to European team members. On another occasion, Seve summoned him to a 4:30 a.m. pairings meeting. After several mostly mute minutes, Seve said, "Now you can go to bed again. I have done the pairings."

9. Don't mess with Ben. After (wrongly) being accused of sporting illegal grooves at the 1947 Match in Portland, Ore., Ben Hogan retaliated in kind, challenging the specifications of the Brits' clubs on the eve of the 1949 Cup at Ganton in England -- and his suspicions were confirmed. After R&A representative (and gifted writer) Bernard Darwin inspected them, he discovered that they were indeed non-conforming. Ganton host professional Jock Ballantine spent the night filing away the prohibited grooves.

10. Leave the driving to us. On the short flight from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, where the 1959 Ryder Cup was to be contested, storm-fueled turbulence plunged the plane carrying the Brits (and American Doug Ford) from 13,000 feet to 9,000 feet in mere seconds before the pilot regained control. Shaken, they returned to L.A., whereupon captain Dai Rees arranged for a Greyhound bus. Adding insult to injury, snooty club members at host Eldorado refused to give up their social games during practice rounds, making three British groups wait to play the 10th hole until the members had resumed their own games after making the turn.

 

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