Golf: Willett heckled during opening round of Ryder Cup

Danny Willett of Europe reacts after putting on the first green during afternoon fourball matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Danny Willett of Europe reacts after putting on the first green during afternoon fourball matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup.PHOTO: AFP

CHASKA, United States (AFP) - Reigning Masters champion Danny Willett teed off at the Ryder Cup on Friday (Sept 30) to a stream of catcalls from hecklers upset over his brother's insults to American golf fans.

There was a chorus of boos from US fans when he was introduced on the first tee. Others yelled "mash potatoes" and "buy you a hotdog" followed by chants of his brother Peter's name.

Englishman Willett did his best to tune out the background noise as he played a four-ball match with Team Europe partner Martin Kaymer against the US duo of Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka.

Despite the jeers and boos coming from the jammed grandstand, Willett calmly stepped up to the opening tee box and blasted his first drive down the middle of the fairway.

He then silenced the crowd around the green when he drained a 30-foot putt on his first hole for an opening birdie.

The controversy began when Pete Willett called US golf fans "fat, stupid, greedy, classless bastards" and a "baying mob of imbeciles" in an article on a European golf website.

The 28-year-old Danny Willett apologized for his brother's rant after learning about it on Wednesday.

Willett's wife, Nicole, followed her husband around the course on Friday from inside the ropes and didn't like some of what she was hearing.

She declined to speak about the matter, saying "I am rather upset."

Not all US supporters were out to jeer Willett on Friday. A group of fans wearing hockey jerseys and Viking horns made a point of telling the grandstand hecklers to keep quiet and on the third tee another American spectator yelled "We love you Danny."

Willett is making his Ryder Cup debut after capturing his first major crown at the Masters, aided by a back-nine collapse from leader Jordan Spieth.

Willett, who also won at Dubai in February, was the first European in 17 years to win at Augusta National.