THEY got up very early, wore outrageous costumes and sang raucously - the thousands of diehard golf fans who descended on Gleneagles today for the sport’s greatest tournament.
The opening of the 40th Ryder Cup at the Perthshire course brought as much colour as at a race day and as much chanting as at a football match.
They were clearly as enthralled as St Albans seed merchant Samuel Ryder had been when watching a match at Wentworth in 1926 that he donated a small gold cup to the game the following year.
The clash between the cream of American and European golf - in Scotland - brought a new mix of tribal splendour to the fore, from a US take on wearing the kilt to spectators dressed as Vikings and the blue and gold European Union flag.
Former First Minister Lord McConnell tweeted a picture of a group of fans in Stars and Stripes kilts, white socks and trainers with the caption: “Best outfits of the morning”.
Then there was the singing, apparently led by the self-titled Ryder Cup Guardians - a male group which has become a familiar sound at the last three tournaments.
Resplendent in blue and yellow outfits in the front row of the first tee’s main grandstand, they had spent months perfecting individual ditties for virtually each member of the European team.
Their repertoire ranged from the easily-copied Bjorn v the USA to the tune of the Bruce Springsteen anthem to welcome the Dane Thomas Bjorn, to Viva Garcia to the tune of Viva Espana for Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
England’s Ian Poulter would now have been familiar with his Walking in a Poulter Wonderland chant, while Scot Stephen Gallacher was welcomed with a rousing rendition of There’s only one Stevie G.
With all that noise it wasn’t surprising the local wildlife didn’t react, with a deer sprinting up the first fairway before turning sharply to the left in front of the first tee and bolting through the crowd.
Later, a wasp made its own mark on proceedings by stinging England’s Justin Rose on his hand.
Swedish partner Henrik Stenson, with whom he put Europe’s first point on the board, said: “I ‘high-fived’ him right on that stingy bit on the thumb after he made the putt on ten and he could still continue, so I guess he’s all right.”
Many fans had travelled to Gleneagles well before first light, with park-and-rides sites in Stirling, Perth and at the former T in the Park site at Balado, near Kinross, opening at 5:30am.
Some had slept in their cars in an attempt to secure prime slots on the course, which opened at 6:30am - an hour before play started.
While there were spaces for 12,500 cars at the park-and-ride sites, another 7,500 took trains to Gleneagles Station, crossing the A9 dual carriageway using specially-built footbridges which locals want permanently retained for road safety.
The tournament has its own bus terminal for direct coaches, such as from Edinburgh, while there is even an official helicopter landing site - but, visiting celebrities please note, only by prior appointment.