MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — Europe has been trying to win over the American crowd at Medinah all week during practice rounds, with players going out of their way to sign autographs and mingle with the fans. And it helps that one of their own, Luke Donald, actually lives in Chicago.
Leaving nothing to chance, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal made one last plea to be loud, but to be respectful.
"Chicago is a passionate city," Olazabal said during the opening ceremony. "We know you will be as strong in support for your team. But I believe you will honor the courtesy of sportsmanship that is the bedrock of Ryder Cup."
Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion and one of the most respected figures in the game, was in the decisive match at Brookline in 1999 against Justin Leonard. All square on the 17th, with the Americans one-half point away from completing the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history, Leonard rammed in a 45-foot birdie putt. Players and wives charged across the green to celebrate, forgetting that the Spaniard had a 25-foot putt to halve the hole.
Olazabal missed, and the Americans won, though the celebration stained the matches at The Country Club.
"We know Boston ... how loud the crowds can be there when we play tournaments over there," he said later. "We know Chicago is going to be loud. Chicago is a great sporting city. They love the game of golf, and I'm pretty sure they are very strong in their support for the U.S. team, without a doubt. But I felt that I needed to just make that point clear. Actually, Davis did it, also, in a similar way."
Love also preached sportsmanship for the next three days at the opening ceremony.
"These matches are not life and death," Love said. "Golf has to be played with a certain spirit of graciousness or it's not golf at all."
Olazabal and Love turned pro the same year on different tours. Love was runner-up to him in the 1999 Masters, and they have been close friends. Olazabal hopes that will carry through into the crowd.
"Even though we are going to try to beat each other, the spirit of the Ryder Cup is what it is," Olazabal said. "There is no need for any harsh words or bad comments at the wrong time. That's why I felt that I needed to make that point, anyway."
TIGER TALES: Tiger Woods was asked to describe the feelings of the first shot he hit in the Ryder Cup, and he took his experience back even farther. Last week at the Tour Championship, he mentioned his Walker Cup experience in Wales.
"I was introduced and just got a huge ovation of boos," Woods said. "I'm like, 'Oh, OK, welcome to the Walker Cup.' Well, I got to Spain (1997 Ryder Cup) and it was even more so. And that was nice. That was good. It was fun being in that atmosphere, because we don't get to play home and road matches, so this is fun for me."
Booing at the Walker Cup?
That didn't sound right to the golf correspondent for the Press Association, who contacted Stephen Gallacher. In the opening match of the 1995 Walker Cup, Woods and John Harris played Gallacher and Gordon Sherry.
"I have absolutely no memories of anybody booing — no chance," Gallacher said. "I was standing alongside him and it's the sort of thing that would stick in your mind. I would be very, very, very surprised if anybody did anything like that. I honestly can't see it happening at an amateur event."
WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Davis Love III has been dreading his speech at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony ever since he was appointed captain, even joking he would get assistant captain Fred Couples to do it for him.