Sunday September 30, 2012
Fans converge on Medinah as Cup fever grips Chicago
At the Ryder Cup
By BRIAN MARTIN
THE expectant crowds had started gathering from as early as 4am, and the chants of “USA, USA, USA” became increasingly loud and frenzied as Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson stepped up on the first teebox.
There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup – the palpable electricity in the air, spine-tingling moments and the surge of emotions that seem to be carrying the Americans while, at the same time, affecting the Europeans.
The second day of golf’s biggest event began with the US holding a commanding 5-3 lead and looking increasingly like champions.
Pockets of European support, some dressed in their national colours – Irish, Spanish, Union Jack and Scottish – have tried to get their team going. Sporadic chants of ‘ole, ole, ole’ can be heard around the golf course, but these are ultimately drowned out by joyous whoops whenever an American birdies a hole.
Chicago is the ultimate sports city with football (the American variety) and baseball preeminent, but the natives have taken the Ryder Cup to their hearts.
The loud, raucous and aggressive crowds have become the 13th man for the US team and the record numbers at Medinah Country Club is the ultimate motivation for Tiger Woods and Co.
Horrendous traffic, taking almost two hours to get to the club from downtown Chicago in the mornings and snarling jams in the evenings, have failed to deter golf fans from making a beeline for Medinah’s Number Three Course.
“This is golf’s biggest event and there’s no way I was going to miss it,” said Bernie Schreiber, a sports marketing manager who came all the way from Palm Beach, Florida.
Someone from even further away, Lora de Luca from Sao Paulo, Brazil, made the trip because “golf is going to be an Olympic sport in Brazil for the first time in 2016 and I wanted to see for myself first-hand how a large tournament like this is organised”.
Even celebrities have got the golf bug – basketball legend Michael Jordan has become the US team’s unofficial mascot, and Olympian Michael Phelps and even Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan have been spotted in the crowd.
All the talk on the course has been on the controversial selections of the fourball and foursome match-ups of captains Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal.
Love’s inspired pairing of the hyped-up rookie Keegan Bradley with the calm, cool and collected Phil Mickelson seems to be the key move that has inspired the US team.
On the European side, however, Olazabal’s decision to leave out his “fighters” Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia for the first day’s afternoon match-ups has left European fans scratching their heads.
To be fair to Olazabal he reinstated his inspirational players for yesterday’s sessions but the Europeans have to play out of their skins to have any chance of retaining the famous Cup they last won at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Whatever happens, today’s singles match-ups are sure to be a mouth-watering prospect for golf fans.