MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - The crowd finally made its presence felt at the Ryder Cup on Saturday helping carry the United States to a commanding 10-6 lead.
During the buildup to the biennial showdown between the U.S. and Europe, American captain Davis Love III had made it clear he was counting on the home fans to lift his team and got what he asked for on Saturday as roars echoed across the sprawling Medinah Country Club.
The energy that has come to characterize the Ryder Cup had been slow to build but on a brilliant Autumn day in suburban Chicago, the party erupted as 40,000 golf fans descended on Medinah.
The 12-man U.S. squad gave the pro-American crowd that included former U.S. presidents George H.W. and George W Bush, plenty to cheer as the Americans pulled away into a healthy lead.
Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley and partner Phil Mickelson got the crowd fired up during the morning foursomes laying a Ryder Cup record equaling 7&6 thrashing on Britons Lee Westwood and Luke Donald to the thundering approval of the massive galleries.
”I think Chicago should be very proud of the way the fans have acted,“ Bradley told reporters. ”There hasn’t been much unsportsmanlike conduct from the crowd.
”I think the crowd has been very pro-American obviously and they’re getting me and Phil very excited. I can barely contain myself out there.
“But I think that they’ve done a great job. It’s like playing on the road in any other sport; it’s obviously a huge advantage to be in front of your home crowd.”
For the Ryder Cup, many of golf’s traditions and etiquette are relaxed allowing fans to express their support that would get them ejected from a PGA Tour event.
Occasionally fans have crossed the line, heckling opposing players and their wives but for the most part the atmosphere and the jabs have been good natured.
While the Europeans have had their cheering sections on the ground at Medinah, they could also look to the heavens for support on Saturday as small planes droned overhead carrying messages such as , “Do it for Seve”, the Spanish great Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer last year and remains an inspiration to their team.
”Some of it was actually funny, when they said Zach should play from the red (closest) tees,“ said Love. ”I didn’t think Zach thought it was very funny but everybody in my cart thought it was funny.
”That’s what Ryder Cup is all about is competition.
”I know I saw (Ian) Poulter one hole, they (the fans) were giving him a hard time about something and he enjoyed it, and I think that’s what makes him a great player.
“That’s what makes Tiger a great player or...somebody else that handles it well. Seve lived for that. They lived for playing in front of a crowd and knowing that they were pulling against them.”
With just one U.S. victory from the last five events, the intensity level is expected to rise on Sunday when the 39th Ryder Cup will be decided by the singles matches.
“We need it to be loud and crazy and try to make people feel uncomfortable out there because any kind of advantage you can get, you need, and the crowd is doing an unbelievable job,” said Brandt Snedeker who will go against Scotsman Paul Lawrie on Sunday.
Editing by Julian Linden