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Sergio Garcia’s American wife is ready to jump into the crowd again to tell her countrymen “leave out the insults because you’re embarrassing”, should their taunts here this week descend to the level witnessed the last time the Ryder Cup was held on this side of the Atlantic.
On a second day of practice here when the wind howled and Padraig Harrington, the Europe captain, went on a charm offensive by decking out his team in “Cheesehead” yellow foam hats - in homage to the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin’s NFL franchise - Angela Akins’s comments were a warning of what may be to follow when the competition starts on Friday.
Akins is one of four Americans whose partners are playing for Europe. Organisers will afford them dispensation to watch the games from inside the ropes, and security will be with each group.
But Akins, the daughter of former Texas Longhorns quarterback Marty Akins and cousin of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, says she will be prepared to venture into the throng to silence the boozed-up boo brigade should their abuse cross the line.
Akins feels so strongly about the issue that she has gone on CNN, the nationwide news broadcaster, to detail her disgust.
“I understand cheering for your team but let’s leave the insults out,” Akins said, before revealing how, in 2016, she took matters into her own hands when one group of men began barracking her then boyfriend.
“I said to them, ‘I’m here supporting the European team, I’m an American, and you’re embarrassing me’,” Akins said. “The people around us joined in and said, ‘Yeah, you’re embarrassing us, too!’
“So, I said to the guys, I want to see American fans being better than that, and they said OK, then later on they saw me, they’d figured out who I was, and they came over and gave me a hug and apologised. I think there were four of them, we all hugged and it was all good.”
With the pandemic restrictions disallowing the vast majority of Europe fans from attending, there have been concerns about the one-sided nature of the support, and with the bars opening early, the potential for disorder - if only amounting to heckling - is clear.
Harrington clearly believes prevention is the best policy, at least at this point. “The Wisconsin fans are very appreciative and we want to show our appreciation,” the Dubliner said, after he and his team marched on to the first tee wearing their head accessories. “We think the colours turned out nice and I think the players are stoked; they are doing something to show their respect for the local state they are in.
“These fans have come out and they’ve come out on a cold day. They’ve come out to watch us, and we want to give them something to watch. It’s light-hearted. You want it that way in practice. It’s somewhat respectful of the Green Bay Packers, and they were very much on board with this, so a bit of fun and we got a nice reception with it. That’s kind of what you want on the practice days.”
There were certainly cheers, but ironically the biggest were reserved for Ian Poulter when his attempt at throwing the foam hat into the grandstand came up short. The 45-year-old anticipates more catcalling. “I’m sure I’ve annoyed plenty of my opponents,” he said. “But I enjoy holing putts and winning matches. I’m never going to apologise for it. It’s how match play should be played.”
USA rookie Cantlay suggests Europe's Ryder Cup dominance is down to 'chance'
By James Corrigan at Whistling Straits
Patrick Cantlay has threatened to annoy the Europe team by comparing their remarkable winning run in the Ryder Cup to a game of cards in which “you could play 10 hands and lose six or seven to someone that’s much worse than you skill-wise”.
Cantlay, the United States rookie who two weeks ago struck the jackpot by winning $15 million (£11 million) at the FedEx Cup, was asked why he thought Europe had triumphed in nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups, and his “game of chance” reply will surely not impress those in the blue-and-gold team room.
“So, I’ve read a few gin [rummy] books,” the world No 4 said. “If you play enough gin hands, a one or two per cent difference in skill translates to almost an assured win over many, many, many hands of gin.
“But you could have a big difference between somebody, maybe a 60-to-40 per cent skill level difference, and gin is still chancy enough where you could play 10 hands and lose six or seven to someone that’s much worse than you skill-wise.”
Cantlay did not stop there, warming to his analogy. “These [Ryder Cup] matches are only played every two years, and golf is very chancy,” he said. “So, would it surprise you if the US went on a similar run to what Europe has been on for the next 20 years? Wouldn’t surprise me.
“You go to Vegas and you play roulette and the chances are 50-50 but skewed toward the house a little, it could hit red six times in a row, but that’s not abnormal. You flip a quarter it would be weird if the quarter flipped tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, heads. Then you would think something trippy was going on.”
Dustin Johnson, in trademark fashion, provided a much simpler explanation. “They just play better – it’s really simple,” the world No 2 said. “Whoever plays better is going to win. I mean, it’s not rocket science.”
Padraig Harrington, the Europe captain, also sees it in much more straightforward fashion to Cantlay and declared that the burden was all on his US counterpart, Steve Stricker. “There’s no doubt, the home captain has to deal with pressure and stress,” Harrington said.
“Most of the focus for us coming in is the fact that it is going to be 90-10, 80-20 [of US fans to Europe fans]. As I’ve said all along, Europe would rather play in front of 40,000 Americans than zero fans. But maybe when we got here it has changed a little bit. You can see that there’s expectation and pressure from the fans going the other way.”
There will be expectation on Harrington if Europe win, however. In 2018, Thomas Bjorn promised to get a tattoo if his team won and the Dane duly honoured his vow.
“I think it’s now an unwritten rule, a given in Europe: the captain gets a tattoo if the team win,” Harrington said. “I don’t have any, so it will be a new experience for me.”