Electric atmosphere on first tee in Wales

Stewart Cink watches his tee shot on the first hole in the singles matches at the Ryder Cup.


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NEWPORT, Wales – There is nothing in golf quite like the scene surrounding the first tee at the Ryder Cup, especially for the singles session. The grandstands at Celtic Manor this week horseshoe around the tee, building an amphitheater of tremendous spirit, cheer and innovative song. And no shortage of humor.

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As each European crossed the bridge from the practice area and made the long walk to the opening tee, players were greeted with a cheer that started softly and built to a crescendo just as they appeared past the corner of the front-right grandstand. The result wasn’t so much loud applause as a resonating clap of continuous thunder.

For Rory McIlroy, who went off in Game 2, the chant aimed at the U.S. team was “You’ve got Big Mac, we’ve got Little Mac.”

When Jim Furyk squinted down the fairway trying to see through the mid-morning fog that made it nearly impossible to see, a lone fan yelled out, “Follow your nose.” Furyk doubled over in laughter.

When Dustin Johnson completed a practice swing while waiting for the fairway to clear, a fan yelled “Fore!!!” And the fans also had a big time with John Paramor, chief referee for the European Tour, who was stationed near the first tee making sure the foggy conditions were still good enough in which to play. Fearing some delay, a voice cried out, “C’mon, John. I’ll NEVER get Tuesday off!”

There apparently might even have been a Catholic priest among the throng which was enjoying the start to another great Ryder Cup day. As American Rickie Fowler stood around waiting to hit, he shouted, “Hurry up, Rickie, I’ve got double mass this afternoon.”

Nearly all if it is in good humor, and those Americans who played along, such as Furyk and Fowler – he wiggled his hips when hearing whistles during his traditional first-tee picture – the fans displayed their appreciation.

When the odd U.S. voice would pipe in with something, such as “We’ve got your cup,” it only sparked the crowd, which in unison returned a song that went, “Not for long, not for long, not for looooong ...”

The guy who seemed to enjoy the setting least was Tiger Woods, who smartly made his way to the tee quite late, just steps behind Francesco Molinari. There was one blue cat-call (wouldn't repeat it hear) but he pretty much was left alone to prepare for his opening tee shot.  

In a word, the scene is brilliant. If I’m a tournament director at a middle-tier venue on the PGA Tour looking to distinguish itself from the rest, I’d build a huge grandstand on No. 1 and fly a couple hundred of these European football fans across the pond by charter. 

And then let the fun begin.

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