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The Ryder Cup has something of a reputation for taking itself far too seriously.

The build-up is far too intense, to the point it’s excruciating. Everyone is exhausted by the time the first ball is in the air.

Why do we need four press conferences with each of the captains before play gets under way? There is only so much they can tell us, and you end up with situations like Thursday, when a tabloid hack asked Luke Donald about his American wife and “sleeping with the enemy” in a desperate bid to create a headline.

But we, as golf fans, are often guilty of getting so worked up about a tournament, only for it to come crashing down when it’s a damp squib. You only have to go back two months to The Open to find the last time this happened.

There is always a danger of an event not living up to the hype. But the seeming lack of needle ahead of these matches, coupled with the constant reminders about what good friends the captains are, what was mockingly referred to as the ‘Coma in Roma’ was becoming more and more a reality.

And when the Europeans romped away with Friday’s pair matches, and continued their fine form into Saturday morning, you would be forgiven for zoning out. That was until an Ian Poulter at Medinah-like finish from Cantlay meant the champagne wasn’t going in the ice bucket just yet.

But the Ryder Cup is a pantomime. And every pantomime needs a villain.

Patrick Cantlay and Joe LaCava

When you think about your favourite Ryder Cup moments from down the years, how many of them include these rapscallions?

The answer, no doubt, is almost always. Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed. Every Ryder Cup experience has been enhanced by having someone on the opposition team you love to hate. Or, indeed, someone on your team that you know the opposition can’t stand.

That role, this year, has fallen to Patrick Cantlay. He’s tested many a golf fan’s patience in recent months – largely due to his unapologetic and infuriatingly deliberate slow play – and he was the perfect fall guy once the allegations of his instigating a split in the USA team room started circulating.

Only he didn’t fall. He instead used the crowd’s goading as fuel, saw off the seemingly unbeatable pair of McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick, and sparked those remarkable scenes on the 18th that resulted in his caddie Joe LaCava squaring up to almost the entire European team.

The USA still needed to overcome a record deficit going into the final day, but suddenly we had a reference point for years to come. We’ll be talking about this incident when we’re old. It will be included under clickbait headlines such as ‘The biggest Ryder Cup controversies’ for generations.

As deplorable as you might find Cantlay’s feelings – if they are, indeed, true – about not being paid to play in the Ryder Cup, there was a sense of relief when they came to light. And that excitement only went one way when LaCava’s pulled out his drunk-uncle-at-a-wedding act.

So thank you, Patrick and Joe. You’ve saved this Ryder Cup.

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author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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