By JESSICA CORNELIUS
Kentucky’s own JB Holmes was a birdie machine Saturday in a pivotal match that ended with Euro’s Lee Westwood missing a “gimme” putt on hole 18 giving the Holmes/Moore pairing a full point victory for Team USA.
Cheers and chants of “USA” echoed throughout the back nine at Hazeltine as the news quickly spread via on course leaderboards and over the radio waves to the tens of thousands of headsets worn by those lucky fans attending the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Were the fans cheering because Team USA won the match or because Lee Westwood missed a putt most amateurs make without much thought? There has been much debate, discussion and complaints by the Euro’s about the home crowds boisterous voices filtering through the slowing changing colors in trees lining the perfectly manicured fairways.
Would you cheer if Christian Laettner had missed “that shot”? Of course you would and not because he missed it but because your team won. The Ryder Cup is golf’s avenue to involve even casual fans of the game helping to ensure its endurance and growth. Most sports hail a highly energized fan base, so why can’t golf?
For this one week every two years, the serious to casual fan can cheer just like they do for their favorite basketball or football team. Of course you will always have those “idiots” who spew out insulting personal remarks that spoil the mood for everyone staring this week with Danny Willett’s brother’s tweet calling Americans……..well you just have to read it.
Somehow that has given a select few the right to verbally attack Euros, which only got them thrown off the course. But you are hearing about only those select few. The tens of thousands of fans attending are respectful and appreciate good golf even if it means watching Stenson chip in for an eagle on 16 to extend the Reed/Spieth match.
Captains and players on both sides have called out any fans being disrespectful, although I think Ian Poulter (vice-captain for team Euro) would call you out for just wearing a red pair of shoes. There is no tolerance or encouragement for disrespectful actions by any fan. Thomas Pieters, Holmes’ singles opponent today, finger shushed the crowd earlier in the week which some interrupt as disrespectful when actually it was just copying a Patrick Reed “moment.” I expected something a little more original by the boys from across the pond.
Rory McIrloy has been animated and very vocal almost to the point of encouraging the USA fans response. You don’t want to pull that tiger’s tail. He is a competitor and feeds off others misery. Both sides, including players and captains, incite the fans, they love it and the fans love it. Everyone that walked away from that course Saturday saw golf at its best and excitement that can only be experienced in this sport every two years.
It’s okay to cheer for a slam dunk by Patrick Reed on Hole 6 as well as a hooked water ball by Rory McElroy on 16. I heard “Ole Ole Ole Ole” as Sergio drains another putt all day and it’s OK. As highly charged as the Minnesota atmosphere was today, after the final putt of the day was given, 40,000+ fans of the sport slowing, orderly and quietly exited the course feeling fulfilled and anxiously anticipating just one more day of the 2016 Ryder cup.