KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) – The Ryder Cup party was back in full swing at Whistling Straits on Friday as the United States roared out of the gate dominating the foursomes 3-1, but for American fans something was missing — Europeans.
Afterall, what fun is it if you can’t rub it in.
With COVID-19 travel restrictions keeping Europeans at home, much of the glee and energy was drained from an event that often draws as much attention for the atmosphere it is played in as the golf itself.
There were more than 40,000 spectators wandering the sparkling lakeside layout Friday morning most of them enjoying a no less brilliant result for the U.S. but the joy seemed forced with no Europeans around to gloat over.
Badly out numbered, a sprinkling of European supporters stood out in a sea of red, white and blue.
Noel Hiney from New York and his friend Kieran Stack of Chicago were among them decked out in matching shamrock printed trousers, one with an Ireland flag draped over his shoulder, the other the European Union.
“There’s not too many of us around,” Hiney told Reuters. “It’s been good so far but it generally gets rowdier in the afternoon as the alcohol kicks in.”
Chants of “USA, USA” which would usually trigger a predictable response from a European contingent instead went unanswered fading forlornly into the sky.
European captain Padraig Harrington conceded he would love to have a few more of their supporters throwing it back to the U.S. but given the choice between no fans at all or a baying American horde, he would happily take the latter.
“If there was 40,000 U.S. fans and no Europeans, we’d prefer that than having no fans,” said Harrington. “That’s just the reality. We want the noise.
“We want the excitement. We want the buzz of it all. Having no fans is no fun.”
Certainly no one on the European squad has more fun with the fans than Sergio Garcia and the Spaniard was winding the mob up again on Friday blowing them kisses after draining a long putt on the 15th that sparked a shower of boos.
During four day run up Harrington and his men had leaned heavily into a charm offensive with the locals wearing the colours of NFL team Green Bay Packer and paying homage to the Wisconsin cheeseheads donning giant wedges of foam cheese on their heads.
U.S. captain Steve Stricker did his best to throw some support the Europeans way during Thursday’s opening ceremony when the Wisconsin native declared himself a Bears fan, the ultimate act of betrayal in Packers country.
In the end the slip up did little damage with no hint of any exodus to the otherside.
Instead, as the Europeans predicted, it would be left up to them alone to create the energy to fuel a successful title defence.
“I think we create it ourselves and we do it with each other,” said Tommy Fleetwood. “Of course this is a different challenge, different atmosphere for us and something that I have actually never experienced before, so even though it’s not my first Ryder Cup, it’s my first one in America.
“I’m still excited by the challenge and what the crowds, what an away crowd for us brings to it.
“I’m looking forward to going out there with the guys and just creating our own atmosphere.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Kohler, Wisconsin, Editing by Christian Radnedge)