CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Thunderous roars cut through the chilly morning mist at a packed Hazeltine National layout and a touching talisman at the first tee seemed to inspire the U.S. Ryder Cup team to a brilliant start on Friday.
Tens of thousands of fans were in place by the 7:30 a.m. start to the 41st Ryder Cup to cheer an American side intent on beating Europe, winners of three in a row in the biennial match play event and eight of the last 10 competitions.
Outrageous outfits worn by blue and gold clad European supporters and the home crowd’s sea of red, white and blue in hats, scarves, pants, jackets, fright wigs, cowboy gear and Uncle Sam regalia filled the grandstands and lined the fairways in numbers that would approach 50,000.
In contrast to the wild splash of colours in the stands, Arnold Palmer’s white U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s golf bag from the 1975 matches at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania stood in the corner of the first tee box.
Players on both teams wore pins saluting Palmer, who died on Sunday aged 87 and to whom this Ryder Cup has been dedicated.
The sing-song chants from the European fans were drowned out by chants of “USA, USA, USA” by U.S. supporters, who even had an answer to the catchy “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole,” responding with “Go ‘way, Away, Away, Away”.
Golf’s customary etiquette takes a beating in the Ryder Cup.
An approach shot by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson at the sixth hole was met with a cheer, once it trickled into a bunker.
A shout of “hit it in the water” rang out from someone in the 20-deep crowd, perhaps more in hope than expectation.
Jimmy Walker, who partnered U.S. team mate Zach Johnson to a 4&2 win over Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, said: “It’s red white and blue and they are loud, they let you know it. It really is incredible. There’s nothing like this in golf.”
When Justin Rose’s long birdie putt at the eighth rolled a couple of feet by, the massive gallery around the green, chanted: “Make him putt it. Make him putt it.”
After a brief conference, Spieth and Patrick Reed, who had bogeyed the hole and were poised to have their lead cut to 2-up, did not concede the putt and Stenson stepped over and tapped it in.
“Looking back, we probably should have given him it,” Spieth said later.
Spieth and Reed posted a 3&2 victory to set the tone as the Americans swept the opening foursomes 4-0, the first such sweep by the U.S. side since Palmer’s 1975 team at Laurel Valley.
Editing by Andrew Both