There he was, another loud fan leaning over a railing at Hazeltine and shouting at golfers, with perhaps too much volume in his voice and too much Budweiser in his belly.
Overly passionate (or worse) fans with something clever (or not) to say had become their own story line at the Ryder Cup, even causing the PGA to release a statement Sunday about fan behavior after more than one spectator had to be removed.
Was this guy going to be next Sunday morning on the 10th tee box?
Nope. Way too many smiles involved. And another key difference: This heckler wore bright-blue pants covered in yellow stars. A European fan heckling the Americans?
“Not quite top 5, Patrick!” That was Gavin Hepburn on Sunday, giving America’s best player, Mr. Reed, an earful as he walked to the No. 10 tee. “Gettin’ close though, I suppose. But, ehhh, c’mon Rory!”
Smiles. On Gavin, on his neighbors on the railing and, shoot, maybe Reed himself, on the inside.
This is the kind of heckling that can be supported at a Ryder Cup.
“I’m loving this. Lovin’ it,” Hepburn said after Reed and McIlroy teed off, continuing their amazing final round. “Absolutely fantastic here. The fans have been excellent to us.
“We’ve been to the Super Bowl, some basketball championships, hockey — but this is the best. This is incredible.”
Hepburn, traveling this week to Minnesota with another friend from Stirling, Scotland, heard about the heckling news of Saturday, but was he bothered? “Nah, that’s sport,” he said.
The same sentiment was found in about a dozen different interviews with European fans around the course Sunday.
There was a lot of buzz in the media center and with some fans at Hazeltine about fan behavior — misbehavior, rather — but the fans visiting from Europe didn’t seem to mind. A sampling of those interviews on Sunday:
Newlyweds from London
“Best week ever,” said Simon Castella, visiting with his wife, Kelly, from Weybridge, England, just outside of London. They were recently married, but Simon was quick to say this trip is definitely not the honeymoon. Kelly smiled at that notion. They were taking in the Ryder Cup’s final morning from the driving range bleachers, watching the last European players warm up. “Every American that we’ve spoken to has been top-notch.”
“Golf is new to me,” Kelly said, “but this is really special. And the people have been very nice.”
“It transcends golf, really,” Simon added. “This feels like our football, or your football. We were hoping for something like this, but this has been amazing.”
‘Small world’ moment at the range
David Towers, Steve Tweedle, Tim Andrews and Pete Chadwick are all from Sheffield, England. Lifelong buddies? Nope. David and Steve noticed Tim and Pete standing near Danny Willett, also a Sheffield native, at the range and struck up a conversation. “We didn’t know each other until 20 minutes ago,” David said with a laugh. Four Sheffield neighbors now friends, after meeting in Chaska, Minnesota — how ’bout that.
“There are a few spoilers in the crowd,” Towers said as the foursome talked about their experience. “But they are the very, very few. They were removed, and I think [security] could do more about that. But this has been wonderful.”
Towers also critiqued the course’s sightlines, saying, “We’re pretty tall, but we had a very hard time seeing the play. We’ve been to Augusta, and Augusta is great.”
“But there are 50,000 people here, and sometimes we’re all trying to see the same four holes.”
Overall, the group was happy with their experience. Steve called Minnesota “clean, nice and modern.” The four guys agreed their trips had been a great success.
The partying Scots
“I don’t remember much about last night,” Paul Thornton said, responding to a question about how he enjoyed the St. Paul nightlife on Saturday night.
“I don’t think we’ve been to bed yet, actually,” his buddy Paul Bridgeman added.
The two traveling Pauls are both from the U.K., with Thornton now living in New Zealand and Bridgeman in Dublin. They were clearly here to party and take in great golf.
“Everyone has wonderful,” Thornton said. “We heard, back home on TV, there’s been talk of bad behavior, but we’ve seen none of that. Not a bit. Everyone here is always so nice, just awesome.”
The men were staying in St. Paul, and Bridgeman had already been told of former Gov. Jesse Ventura’s infamous joke about the streets of St. Paul. “Yeah. Drunken Irishmen,” Bridgeman said, with a laugh that was maybe half about the joke and half about the guy repeating it.
‘Chopsy’ ones don’t ruin it
Christine Jones and her husband, Michael, had a beauty of a spot staked out on the ninth fairway, with their Team Europe flags tied to the ropes and flapping in the spectacular fall weather.
“Lovely,” was Christine’s first word. “Stunning,” was Michael’s.
Around the ninth fairway American fans and European fans were seen fist-bumping each other, or give each other a nod after a nice shot — a scene repeated around the course many times this weekend. American hecklers were often shhh’ed by their compatriots when a shout did come at the wrong time or cross a line.
Sunday on 16, McIlroy backed off an approach shot when a single hoot came from the right-hand side of the fairway. Several thousand fans immediately boo’ed the one knucklehead. A moment later, the stadium-sized crowd was church-pew silent.
“This has been fantastic — really, everyone has been wonderful,” Michael said from his mini Euro camp on 9. “Just a brilliant time here.”
The couple from Wales seemed completely unfazed by the small minority.
“Some were chopsy,” Michael said. “But that’s going to happen. Too much drink.
“But over 99 percent of the people have been brilliant — we’ve loved it.”