MEDINAH, Ill. – Ryder Cup rivals Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter might have created a new tradition for the event by encouraging the crowd to break golf's strict rules of etiquette.
After Watson urged the gallery to cheer all the way through his opening tee shot on Friday afternoon, Europe's Poulter followed suit during the Saturday morning foursomes, when he and Justin Rose took on Watson and Webb Simpson. Watson, teeing off second, had little choice but to gleefully tell the crowd to keep cheering right afterward.
Golf decorum usually dictates that fans should remain totally silent during shots; the sport's traditions are firmly enshrined. However, the remarkable scenes where both Poulter and then Watson were given a rousing sendoff met with the firm approval of United States captain Davis Love III.
Love was stationed close to the first tee when the incident took place and was caught by TV cameras laughing and smiling. "Davis thought it was awesome," a U.S. team official said. "You wouldn't see any complaints from him if it were to continue, as long as it is done respectfully."
While there is nothing in golf's rules that relates to the conduct expected of the crowd, officials hold up signs requesting quiet before each shot. There is no question, though, that the scene at the first hole added extra edge and spectacle to the matches and was greeted with delight by fans of both teams.
"I didn't think there was any way I would be cheering Ian Poulter today," U.S. fan Jim McMahon said. "He is one of those players you love to hate, but when someone goes out of their way to involve the crowd like that and generate atmosphere you have to respect it. It was pretty electrifying to see and be a part of."
Poulter conferred with European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his teammates before making the decision to fire up the crowd in hopes it might shift some momentum in his team's favor. Indeed, Poulter and Rose won the first hole with a birdie, but little else went right for the visitors at the start of the second morning.
Competition officials confirmed to the BBC they would have no problem if the first tee cheering was to become commonplace at every Ryder Cup match.
[Related: Day one rules controversy at Ryder Cup]
Despite the absence of Tiger Woods on Saturday morning – he rested after his mixed performance on Friday – the Medinah crowd was again in fine voice, boosted by the excellent opening match where both Poulter and Watson shined.
Woods' benching appeared to matter little as the Americans took an early lead in all four matches, prompting 2010 European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie to suggest the 14-time major champion was not much of an asset at this event.
"The last time the Americans won it and the only time this century was without Tiger in 2008," Montgomerie said on NBC. "It's amazing how they do as well without as with him, and all credit to Davis for leaving him out. It was the right decision to leave him on the bench."
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