There's rowdy, and then there's what happened Friday at Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup all but requires you muster a healthy amount of scorn for the opposition, an acrimony that does not exist at any other golf tournament.



It is what makes the event so special, so intense, so exhilarating. There was yelling and screaming and cheering and booing from the time the sun came up Friday morning until Rory McIlroy holed that eagle putt on the 16th green and bowed to the crowd, his emotions at a fever pitch.

Hazeltine shook with delirium at times, the ebbs and flows of the Ryder Cup producing all manner of reactions as the U.S. took a 5-3 lead after Day 1. Of course, it is the over-the-top behavior, the vocal and sometimes vulgar minority, that tends to get singled out in such instances.

McIlroy's reaction was undoubtedly joy spiced with venom. He noted the "hostile environment out there," and one got the sense that if McIlroy could have offered up a one-finger salute, he would have done so.

Danny Willett had no such ability to stick it back to the American crowd when his golf wasn't good enough to quiet the hecklers. After his brother, Pete, wrote his well-vetted piece for the National Club Golfer website earlier this week in which he described U.S. golf fans as a "baying mob of imbeciles" and "pudgy basement-dwelling irritants," among other things, he was bound to hear at least a smattering of derisive taunts.

Whether it crossed the line or not is probably a matter of location and perception, but a good number of the gallery's finest stooped down to the level that Pete Willett had described, his supposedly tongue-in-cheek offering playing out in real life.

Even after Danny Willett's round -- a 5 and 4 defeat with Martin Kaymer to Americans Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka -- when he retreated to the driving range, with only American J.B. Holmes also hitting balls, there was an inebriated spectator yelling at him from the grandstands, taunting him with the various unoriginal barbs that made all those around uncomfortable.

"Nobody was doing anything when he was hitting shots, but there was plenty of abuse out there," Pete Cowen, Willett's swing coach, told ESPN.com. "He played OK, but it's a shame as this has spoiled his week through no fault of his own.

"Everyone lets it deflect from the actual tournament; it's pathetic really, isn't it? He was looking forward to a great week, and then all of a sudden, it gets spoiled by everybody else's reaction to it. It's always tough in the Ryder Cup, and anything like that makes it even more difficult. He was really looking forward to this and all of a sudden he can't look forward to it because of all the stuff that surrounds it."

Pete Willett's description of U.S. golf fans might, indeed, have been over the top and offensive. So that makes it OK to act just the way he described? It was just the day before, during the opening ceremony, when legends Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin called for decorum and good sportsmanship. They invoked the memory of Arnold Palmer, who undoubtedly would have been appalled by such behavior.

While the vibe is ratcheted up considerably at a Ryder Cup, it is not a football game, neither the American nor international variety. Some level of civility is expected, and given the proximity of spectators to golfers, it is tolerated even less.

It is telling when U.S. captain Davis Love III was scanning the crowd to point out the offenders, or when Jordan Spieth did the same. They appreciate the support but not when it gets nasty.

These same sorts of incidents occur at Ryder Cups in Europe, although it seems there is just a tad bit more decorum on the other side of the pond. Sure, the fans cheer wildly for their team and players. They make a considerable amount of noise and revel in throwing a few jabs at the visiting Americans. But they cheer the good shots, and keep the personal attacks to a minimum.

"Most of the people out there are respectful and are just cheering really hard for the U.S. team," said McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland but now lives in Florida. "That's totally acceptable and that's exactly what happens in Europe. But still, it's a hostile environment that the people out there don't want you to hole a putt. They don't want you to hit a good shot.

"I think when you do hole a putt or hit a good shot, it just makes it that much more satisfying. I'm obviously not fazed by anything said by the crowd."

It's remarkable to think that anyone would give McIlroy grief. One of his four major title wins was at the U.S. Open. He has been a great ambassador for the game, having won tournaments all around the world.

And if you watched his golf in the afternoon session Friday, it was something to behold, four birdies and a match-clinching eagle. Great stuff, even if you were rooting for the other side.

To his credit, Willett tried to downplay the grief he took. The Masters champion had lauded the way American spectators embraced him during and following his victory at Augusta National, and he also knows he did nothing to incite such behavior.

"There were a few little shouts in there, and bits and bobs, but hopefully they are all following me around so the rest of the lads can do their business," he said.

Now that's taking one for the team, a team that you know is using all the ugliness as motivation.

Source : http://www.espn.com/golf/rydercup16/story/_/id/17677597/ryder-cup-2016-fans-starting-cross-gallery-line-hazeltine

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