Rory McIlroy has fed off the hoots and catcalls aimed at him from the hostile Ryder Cup fans for two days. Not only has he returned the compliment, with his own combative glares and shouts, but he and Thomas Pieters went 2-0 in Saturday’s two sessions and posted the Europeans' only point of the afternoon.
Thanks to McIlroy, the U.S. did not shut out the Euros and Davis Love III's crew will take a 9.5-6.5 edge into Sunday's singles finale and hope to hang on. If Patrick Reed has anything to say about it, the Americans will strut and fist-pump their way to their first Ryder Cup victory since 2008 and put their 2012 meltdown at Medinah under DL3's watchful eye behind them.
The fiery Reed let it rip all day, outdoing himself on almost every hole during his and Jordan Spieth's 2&1 fourball win over Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar added another point for the home squad with a 2&1 victory over Sergio Garcia, and Martin Kaymer. Lefty even busted some moves of his own after drilling a long one on No. 10, and then walked in his match-winning par putt on 18.
For Europe, though, it was all McIlroy, who teamed with Pieters to beat Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, 3&1, in their fourball match — and go 3-0 in their two-day partnership. He was not, however, the only Euro heckled and harassed by the extremely partisan Minnesota crowd.
"We understand that a number of European players are continuing to hear it from a few select people out there who just don’t quite get the spirit of the event," said NBC’s Dan Hicks as most of the Saturday afternoon fourball matches were heading into the home stretch and the visitors still very much in it. "There’s been ejections but it’s been something that the European players have dealt with very well, considering the way they’ve played."
Some of the needling has been good-natured, like that of the spectators who went all Neil Diamond on Caroline Wozniacki’s ex.
Fans serenade Rory with the chorus from "Sweet Caroline."— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) October 1, 2016
He yells back: "GOOD TIMES NEVER SEEMED SO GOOD!"
But when one ignoramus yelled a particularly ugly epithet at McIlroy, the four-time major winner had heard enough and got that guy an early exit from Hazeltine.
Fans getting brutal out here. After 7th green, some idiot yelled "Suck a d---, Rory!" right in his face. He grabbed security had him tossed.— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) October 1, 2016
The incident, which took the jeering of Europeans that has grown more vociferous by the hour to a new, repugnant level, occurred after the McIlroy/Pieters duo took a 2-up lead on the seventh hole of their Saturday afternoon fourball match. Johnny Miller chalked it up to many of those in the gallery being "not necessarily golf fans," but rather on-site as part of a "social phenomenon."
We would strongly disagree that doing the wave is, as Dan Hicks proclaimed, "the great part" of the Ryder Cup, and it certainly is not what "makes the Ryder Cup stand alone in sporting events," since it got its undulating start at a major league baseball game. But at least it’s a harmless way to entertain those who believe it’s still 1981.
In the other afternoon match, a shaky par putt from Lee Westwood to halve the 17th hole and stay all square with J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore wobbled by the cup. Though poor drives from Holmes and Moore let him and Danny Willett back into the game, Westwood again missed a knee-knocker on No. 18 and the U.S. salvaged a halve.
As for those obnoxious anti-Euro imbeciles in the cheap seats: you may be proving Danny Willett's brother right about you but if you think you’re getting to McIlroy, think again.
"It [heckling] fueled me a lot. The more they shouted, the better we played," he said after a stellar day inside the ropes. "I hope they shout at us all day tomorrow."
Ball’s in your court, sports fans.