The 24 players participating in the Ryder Cup had individual interviews scheduled over three days in the media center. Danny Willett was assigned to a slot early on Thursday afternoon.
This proved fortuitous for the media, if not for the Masters champion from Sheffield, England.
Early on Wednesday, updates on the essay written by his brother Pete for a British golf publication started to surface. Unless you’re a baying imbecile, you can find Pete’s over-the-top insults toward Americans and our golf fans in 10 seconds on the Internet.
The moderator for Thursday’s interview started with a generic question to Willett, and then it was opened to the reporters who had crowded the extra-large press room.
Asked about a conversation with his brother on Wednesday night, Willett said:
“ … I was disappointed in what he wrote and, obviously, it put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup for the last couple of days.
“Luckily, it’s not been too bad with the fans. The fans have still been great. There’s a few shouts out there but you can expect that.’’
Asked if once he heard about the article he was concerned about being the fans’ target, Willett said:
“Yeah, coming to America, you’re already a bit of a target. Obviously, the European team with 12 guys … it kind of centered the attention a bit more on me.
“What was said wasn’t my writing and wasn’t the team’s writing or anything like it.’’
Willett reiterated his conversation with Davis Love III, the U.S. captain, on Wednesday. He said that Love was “happy to draw a line under it,’’ then added:
“I spoke to some of the American guys last night and they felt the same way. In an ideal world, the fans would do the same thing and we won’t let it tarnish, obviously, my first Ryder Cup, but we won’t let in tarnish the 41st Ryder Cup.’’
Willett hit a shot on the second hole that wound up hitting a spectator in Thursday’s practice round. It was a glancing blow that knocked the ball backward.
As for the rest of his interaction with the galleries, he said:
“It was all right. I don’t think anyone ever came to America, any of the European lads, and thought it was going to be a walk in the park. There’s some pretty rowdy American fans at every Ryder Cup. That’s the nature of the beast. Same when the U.S. guys come to Europe.
“You don’t mind a bit of heckling, but hope it doesn’t go too far.’’
Willett’s parents are here for the Ryder Cup. They were walking inside the ropes during Thursday’s practice round. Willett said that Mom and Dad also had called Pete the Writer to express disappointment.
Danny was asked if this was going to have an impact on the quality of his Christmas present for Pete this year.
“Family’s still family,’’ he said. “Still my brother. What he said was wrong and incredibly ill-timed, but he’s still my brother.’’