CHASKA, Minn. – Danny Willett knew it was coming.
After his brother Pete Willett penned an article for a British golf magazine in which he made several negative and unflattering comments about American fans, Willett was sure to receive a good amount of heckling from the home fans in his Ryder Cup debut Friday at Hazeltine. And he did.
“It was anticipated,” Willett said. “It was one of those things, like I said before, coming to America is a tough one. Just like when the Americans come to Europe; you know, they gave me a little bit more. And yeah, I think it was exactly what we thought it was going to be.
“There was a few little shouts in there, and bits and bobs, but hopefully they are all following me around so the rest of the lads can do their business.”
Willett, playing along Martin Kaymer in an afternoon four-ball match, certainly heard more than a few “bits and bobs” from the crowd during a 5-and-4 loss to Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker, though for the most part, the shouts were more annoying than cruel.
“Where’s your brother?” several fans yelled throughout the round.
“Willett, you suck!” some more shouted.
“Hit it in the water!” one guy screamed on the 10th hole, to which Willett’s wife Nicole turned to a reporter from The Telegraph and said, “I’m rather upset.”
And then there were chants of “Danny, Danny, Danny,” and “We like hot dogs,” the latter a reference to this Pete Willett comment: They need to silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hotdog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red.
“I didn’t think it crossed the line by any stretch of the imagination today,” Snedeker said. “… (U.S. captain) Davis (Love) was out there quite a few holes trying to quash it if it got out of control. I don’t think it really ever did.”
Love wasn’t the only one trying to hush the crowd. U.S. vice captain Bubba Watson attempted to lecture a fan after the fan yelled, “Your brother could hit it for you,” to which some people around them turned on Bubba.
“Grow a pair, Bubba,” one said.
On Twitter, fellow PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan came to Willett’s defense: “The fans need to control themselves and take it easy on Willett. He’s a good dude. Shouldn’t be punished for someone else’s mistakes.”
Willett’s teammate Rory McIlroy called the U.S. crowd “hostile” after his victory alongside Thomas Pieters, one of three by the Europeans in four-balls to shrink the American lead to 5-3 after the first day.
“Most of the people out there are respectful and are just cheering really hard for the U.S. team. That’s totally acceptable and that’s exactly what happens in Europe,” McIlroy said. “But still, it’s a hostile environment that the people out there don’t want you to hole a putt. They don’t want you to hit a good shot. I think when you do hole a putt or hit a good shot, it just makes it that much more satisfying.
“…You know, as we say, we want this Ryder Cup to be played in a very sportsman like conduct, and a sportsmanlike conduct that the great late Arnold Palmer would be very proud of.”
Said Willett, who publically denounced his brother’s comments: “It’s unfortunate, but the guys have had a great afternoon.”
That they did. And while Willett is sure to hear more from the American crowd these next two days, he could have the last laugh come Sunday.