Europe Ryder Cup players wary of Chicago fans
25 Sep 2012 - 16:47:31
Ryder Cup week moved into top gear on Tuesday with European players expressing wariness over the Chicago fan factor.
Known for the passion and boisterousness of its sports fans, packed crowds are expected to fill the Medinah Country Club course in the city's northwest suburbs as the trophy is contested in the state of Illinois for the first time this weekend.
Four years ago at Valhalla in Kentucky, the last time the Ryder Cup was held in the United States, the atmosphere was rowdy and nationalistic, although it never reverted to the open hostility that marred the Brookline contest in 1999.
What happens in Chicago remains to be seen, but Justin Rose for one is convinced it will be intimidating for the European team.
"I have a feeling that Chicago might be even more boisterous than Louisville (Valhalla), so I'm expecting that," said Rose who finished runner-up to US wild car Brandt Snedeker on Sunday in the season-ending US PGA Tour Championship at Atlanta.
"I just think the golf fan will enjoy coming to The Ryder Cup and turn out in numbers. And obviously The Ryder Cup attracts people from all over the world.
"But the Chicago sports fan, I've never been to a Bears game or a Cubs game or a White Sox game, but I do have some friends that live in the city and basically they can be walking along and if a TV is on, everyone stops to see what the score is.
"So very passionate sports fans, and one of the biggest and best cities in America. So it's going to be a fun place to play."
Agreeing with Rose was Graeme McDowell, the Ulsterman who was the hero of Celtic Manor, Wales, two years ago when he grabbed the winning point in the last of the 12 singles matches to regain the trophy for Europe.
The 2010 US Open champion will be winning his third cap and has a winning record of played eight, won four, two halves and lost two, his partnership with compatriot Rory McIlroy seen as a fixture in the European team.
McDowell experienced the electric atmosphere at Valhalla when he made his debut in the competition in 2008 and says that he expects more of the same in Chicago this week.
"There's no doubt, there's a world of difference between playing in front of your home fans and playing in front of the US fans," he said.
"Putts that drop in front of your home fans are like a bomb going off and putts that go in this weekend will be like someone's got the silencer on. It's kind of a muted applause.
"Chicago is such a great sports town. People love their sport in this part of the world, and you know, I know they kind of had a pop at that Super Bowl and didn't get it and the Olympics, didn't get it and all that kind of stuff.
"They got The Ryder Cup, and I think they are going to be excited, the town of Chicago, and they are going to be behind their guys. It's going to be interesting to see the atmosphere."
Rose and McDowell joined the 10 other European team members along with captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his four assistants for a team-bonding dinner in Chicago Monday night and they were all out on course for a first practice at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.
The US team practice got underway shortly after with Tiger Woods returning to a course where he won two of his 14 majors - both in the US PGA Championship.
Woods says he feels very comfortable in the Chicago area for reasons he cannot quite explain and he feels the crowds could be a telling factor in deciding who gets to keep the cup for the next two years.
"This is a great sporting town, to begin with, and they obviously have supported the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, you name it. They just love sport, period," he said
"And for us to come in here and be part of a US team I think is just going to add to that.
"We are going to have a great atmosphere here, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I think it's going to be fun for both sides. It will be obviously more obviously in our favour, just like it is when we go over to Europe. But, hey, it's part of the deal."