Throughout the Ryder Cup’s history, American fans have earned a reputation as being more vocal, boisterous and partisan than their European counterparts, and no one is expecting anything different this year at Medinah Country Club.
Nor should they. Home crowds are an undoubted advantage in the Ryder Cup, and the American fans have every right to be vocal, show their support and get right behind their country.
No one has any issue with that. Everyone watching knows the Ryder Cup is unlike any other golf event and, as such, circumstances differ. In 2010, for example, chants of ‘there’s only two Molinaris’ rang around Celtic Manor, far removed from what you would expect at a normal European Tour event.
The differing atmosphere and more raucous support is embraced by all involved, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a line, and that sportsmanship and respect should go right out the window.
No one can deny the Americans sometimes go too far. Images of ‘the War on the Shore’ at Kiawah Island in 1991 – where the ultra-nationalistic American support conflicted with the Ryder Cup virtues of camaraderie and sportsmanship – spring to mind.
Fortunately, lessons were learnt from Kiawah, and recent Ryder Cups in America have accommodated both passionate support and adherence to etiquette and sportsmanship.
In 1969, Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin were embroiled in the closest of tussles, with both players left with four-footers on the 18th green.
Nicklaus holed his before bending down, picking up the Englishman’s marker and saying to him: “I know you wouldn’t have missed that, but, given the circumstances, I did not want to give you the chance.”
That is spirit of the Ryder Cup. Let’s hope everyone present at Medinah remembers that moment, and remembers what really makes the Ryder Cup so special: fierce competition underpinned by sportsmanship and respect.