Ryder Cup 2021 preview
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Team Europe began their Ryder Cup action in front of a cauldron of raucous home supporters intent on giving the visitors a hostile reception at Whistling Straits. The US fans were up at the crack of dawn to pile into the stands at the first tee on Friday, to cheer on their heroes and make sure the opposition knew what they were up against this weekend.
Those seats were filled by 6.15am local time, with all those in attendance in jubilant spirits while they waited for the action to get under way on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Neil Diamond’s classic Sweet Caroline was the sound of the summer for England football fans at the European Championships this summer, but the Americans adopted the anthem as their own as they sang along with the 1970 hit at the top of their lungs while the light was still dim.
And once the sun had made its appearance they were even louder, welcoming Steve Stricker’s players with a wall of positive noise and giving a similarly loud but less welcoming reception as each of Padraig Harrington’s men showed their faces.
As the first ones out for Team Europe, the Spanish pair of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia took the brunt of the American supporters’ derision before huge cheers for their foursome opponents Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
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Not that it affected them – after an early setback, two stunning putts from world number one Rahm and some gorgeous approach play from the veteran Garcia saw them race into a three-hole lead after 12 played.
It was less promising for the final European pair to step up to the tee on Friday morning, though, despite the experience between them.
If Rory McIlroy’s greeting on the first hole was hostile, then Ian Poulter’s was almost vicious.
The Postman has been the scourge of the Americans in numerous previous editions of this tournament, and came into his seventh appearance in this tournament as a dependable performer for Harrington.
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But the Englishman’s start was inauspicious to say the least, as he and McIlroy lost the first five holes to a ruthless pairing of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
The hostile reception for the European players was a sign of things to come over the next two days, with the noise only likely to get louder as the weekend’s play goes along.
American supporters will only be more buoyed if their heroes live up to the expectation upon them to put themselves into a commanding position by the end of play on Friday.
While a hostile atmosphere was always going to be likely in Wisconsin, the roles will be reversed when Europe hosts the 44th edition of this historic competition in 2023.
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