At the Ryder Cup, the Fans Are Part of the Show

The nature of fans is that the opposite side does not always agree. “Crenshaw at Brookline whipped the fans up,” said Andrew “Chubby” Chandler, a longtime agent for players on the European Tour. “It was a pretty unpleasant atmosphere. It was about as volatile an atmosphere as I’ve ever been to at a Ryder Cup.”Crenshaw, for his part, doesn’t deny that he played to the crowds. “I plead guilty to exciting the fans,” he said. “I was going out in my cart, and I’d see a whole bunch of fans and I’d raise my hands. They’d acknowledge that. But it was much the same way as Seve was doing in Spain.”That was the previous Ryder Cup at Spain’s Valderrama Golf Club in 1997. The Europeans won that contest by a point with Ballesteros as the team captain.Playing in the Ryder Cup, particularly for first-time participants, is difficult. “The one thing rookies don’t realize and expect is how nervous they’re going to be,” Chandler said, noting the noise on the first tee. “They’ve all played in majors, and they’ll be more nervous than that. I could never imagine that Darren Clarke [a five-time Ryder Cup player] would be so nervous on the driving range and then go birdie the first three holes.”Padraig Harrington, this year’s European captain, cited the need for experience in the selection of his team. “The older guys bring something, but the younger guys bring a huge amount of passion,” he said. “They light the fire in the team room for the old guys. You know the young guys can play. But you need those veterans as well. There’s an equilibrium point.”Changes have been made to the course at Whistling Straits, like flattening steep mounds, widening carts paths and putting the concessions on an adjacent course that won’t be in use during the competition, to move people around more easily under Covid protocols, said Jason Mengel, director of the Ryder Cup. But what matters most this year is that fans will be there in person.“People haven’t been able to root for their country in quite some time,” Waugh said. “The animal spirits are high.”

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