American golf fans upped the ante heckling-wise during Thursday’s final practice round for this week’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
One of the more creative jabs was directed at an Olympic medalist. Henrik Stenson, the Swede who proudly won silver as golf returned to the Olympics in Rio, had his runner-up finish to England’s Justin Rose redefined downward by a fan sitting in the gallery around the eighth green.
“Hey, Stenson!” the gentleman bellowed. “Over here, we call silver medalists ‘First Loser!’ ”
There were more chants of “USA!” around the golf course as fans seemingly try to will along a U.S. team that has lost three straight Ryder Cups and eight of the past 10. It has never lost four straight.
As the American foursome of Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker made their way off the 11th tee, a fan screamed, “Hey, SNEED-eker, go get ’em. The Euros just hit two in the water on 7!”
Of course, that fan also left out something pretty important about that European foursome’s effort on the signature par-4 along Hazeltine Lake, according to volunteer marshal Wade Susee.
“Thomas Pieters also crushed one way down there and had about 40 yards in on his second shot,” said Susee, a Minnesota Valley member assigned to the 16th hole.
Susee’s job Thursday was to stand inside the ropes right by the famous Payne Stewart Bridge, named after the late golfer who won the U.S. Open at Hazeltine in 1991.
“We get a lot of requests from people who want to go under the ropes and get their photo taken on the bridge,” Susee said. “We have to tell them, ‘Sorry, but that’s not allowed.’ ”
Wednesday was a much kinder, gentler day for European medal winners.
When Rose teed off on 10, a 12-mph wind off Hazeltine Lake pushed his shot into the crowd along the right side of the fairway. The ball rattled in a tree and landed 2 inches from the foot of Kathy Smith of Hudson, Wis.
“I can’t believe I almost got hit by an Olympic gold medalist,” she said. “When he came up to the ball, I told him, ‘Congratulations on your gold medal, Mr. Rose.’ ”
Things have gotten a little less friendly since then.