Heckling continues to mar Ryder atmosphere
By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - The 41st Ryder Cup has been a riot of colour, costume, cheering and great golf between 12-man teams from the United States and Europe performing in front of an audience of some 50,000 at Hazeltine National.
The circus atmosphere of good fun and sports thrills has also been pierced by rude, unsportsmanlike heckling.
Shouting insults at players from the visiting European side is bad enough, but some brazen hecklers have taken to trying to distract players as they execute their shots.
As the Saturday afternoon fourballs session wore on, hecklers seemed to grow more bold and perhaps more inebriated.
The tightest match of the fourballs made Englishmen Danny Willett and Lee Westwood the targets of hecklers.
At the 16th hole someone yelled “No pressure” as Westwood readied for a clutch putt.
At the 17th, a loud spectator said "Miss" just as Westwood was stroking a putt to halve the hole. He missed, providing the U.S. pair of JB Holmes and Ryan Moore with their winning margin.
Who knows whether Westwood would have made the putt without the distraction, but it cannot have helped.
Westwood missed three putts within five feet over the back nine as Europe squandered a one-hole lead to lose by one.
"You hate to see it but it only takes a few," Curtis Strange, the 2002 U.S. Ryder Cup captain told Reuters on the 14th hole. "You want to see the fans root really hard for their team and be polite to the other team.
"They are our guests ... in our country. I really feel for Danny this week and they've been heckling Rory. How can you heckle Rory?"
World number three Rory McIlroy had to deal with rowdy fans on nearly every hole on Saturday and pointed out a particularly bothersome heckler to officials at the seventh hole.
"Someone just said a few derogatory things I thought was out of line. I tried to get him removed," the Northern Irishman said.
"You try to keep the utmost respect for who you're playing and for who you're supporting. That particular guy, this is obviously in the very, very small minority, just took it a bit too far."
Spain's Sergio Garcia, playing his eighth Ryder Cup, put the figure higher.
"They have been quite poor. I'm not going to lie," Garcia said about the crowd. "It's unfortunate because I think that 85 percent of the people are great and I love playing in America. My girlfriend is American.
"But that 15 percent, that is really bad. It makes them look bad. And I feel ashamed for my girlfriend because I know how bad she feels when she hears all the things, but it is what it is."
U.S. player Jordan Spieth tried to quiet the crowd at times, as did assistant captain Bubba Watson.
"We just wanted to make sure that everybody could play their game," Spieth told reporters. "There were times where it would quiet down and then you would get a fan or two that would just yell and single people out maybe.
"We wanted to just hush them down so that they were able to hit under the same conditions we were able to hit under. I think that's fair."
"We wanted to beat them at their best and we thought it would be fair to make sure that we did our part in giving them the opportunity that we had when we were hitting shots."
(Editing by Andrew Both)