CHASKA (Minnesota) • The 41st Ryder Cup has been a riot of colour, costume, cheering and great golf between 12-man teams from the United States and Europe performing in front of an audience of some 50,000 at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
But the circus atmosphere of good fun and sports thrills has also been pierced by rude, unsportsmanlike heckling since the start on Friday.
Shouting insults at players from the visiting European side is bad enough, but some brazen hecklers have taken to trying to distract players as they execute their shots. As the Saturday afternoon four-ball session wore on, hecklers seemed to grow more bold and perhaps more inebriated.
The Americans finally captured the three final matches to seize a 91/2-61/2 edge over Europe. That left the hosts needing only five points from the 12 concluding singles matches to reclaim the Cup while Europe must take 71/2 points to retain the trophy.
All the excitement aside, it was unfortunately the hecklers who made headlines.
DAY 2: USA 91/2 EUROPE 61/2
MORNING FOURSOMES: USA 11/2 EUROPE 21/2
• Rickie Fowler/Phil Mickelson lost to Rory McIlroy (Nir)/Thomas Pieters (Bel ) 4 & 2
• Brandt Snedeker/Brooks Koepka bt Henrik Stenson (Swe)/Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 3 & 2
• Jimmy Walker/Zach Johnson lost to Justin Rose (Eng)/Chris Wood (Eng) 1 down
• Patrick Reed/Jordan Spieth halved Sergio Garcia (Esp)/Rafael Cabrera Bello (Esp)
AFTERNOON FOUR-BALLS: USA 3 EUROPE 1
• Koepka/Johnson lost to McIlroy/Pieters 3 & 1
• J.B. Holmes/Ryan Moore bt Danny Willett (Eng)/ Lee Westwood (Eng) 1 up
• Mickelson/Matt Kuchar bt Martin Kaymer (Ger)/Garcia 2 & 1
• Reed/Spieth bt Rose/Stenson 2 & 1
The tightest match of the four-balls made Englishmen Danny Willett and Lee Westwood the targets of verbal abuse.
At the 16th hole, someone yelled "No pressure!" as Westwood readied for a clutch putt.
At the 17th, a loud spectator said "Miss!" just as he was stroking a putt to halve the hole. He missed, providing the US pair of J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore with their winning margin.
In all, Westwood missed three putts within five feet over the back nine, as Europe squandered a one-hole lead to lose by one.
"You hate to see it but it only takes a few," Curtis Strange, the 2002 US Ryder Cup captain, told Reuters on the 14th hole.
"You want to see the fans root really hard for their team and be polite to the other team.
"They are our guests... in our country. I really feel for Danny this week and they've been heckling Rory. How can you heckle Rory?"
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy had to deal with rowdy fans on nearly every hole on Saturday and pointed out a particularly bothersome heckler to officials at the seventh hole.
"Someone just said a few derogatory things I thought was out of line. I tried to get him removed," the Northern Irishman said.
"You try to keep the utmost respect for who you're playing and for who you're supporting. That particular guy, this is obviously in the very, very small minority, just took it a bit too far."
Spain's Sergio Garcia, playing his eighth Ryder Cup, put the figure higher.
"They have been quite poor. I'm not going to lie," he said about the crowd. "It's unfortunate because I think that 85 per cent of the people are great and I love playing in America. My girlfriend is American.
"But that 15 per cent, that is really bad. It makes them look bad. And I feel ashamed for my girlfriend because I know how bad she feels when she hears all the things, but it is what it is."
US star Jordan Spieth tried to quieten the crowd at times, as did assistant captain Bubba Watson.
"We just wanted to make sure that everybody could play their game," world No. 4 Spieth told reporters.
"There were times where it would quiet down and then you would get a fan or two that would just yell and single people out maybe.
"We wanted to just hush them down so that they were able to hit under the same conditions we were able to hit under. I think that's fair.
"We wanted to beat them at their best and we thought it would be fair to make sure that we did our part in giving them the opportunity that we had when we were hitting shots."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE