Danny Willett has urged home fans heading to the Ryder Cup over the next three days to join Team USA captain Davis Love in accepting an apology over his brother’s anti-American comments so to avoid the Hazeltine event being “tainted” by unsavoury incidents.
The build up to the event’s 41st staging in Minnesota has been overshadowed by a furore sparked by Willett’s brother, Peter, using a column he writes for a British-based golf magazine to launch a stinging and completely bizzare attack on American golf fans.
The schoolteacher described them as a “baying mob of imbeciles” and also said they were “cretins” and “brainless”, causing quite a stooshie as his brother, the current Masters champion, prepared to make his Ryder Cup debut in Minnesota.
The golfing Willett immediately apologised to Love on Wednesday when he was made aware of the comments and issued a public one as well in his pre-event press conference, having taken a bit of stick from the odd fan out on the Chaska course earlier in the day but nothing he hadn’t expected.
Now Willett, one of six rookies in the European team, is keeping his fingers crossed that a “line has been drawn” over the matter and that the focus will be purely on a keenly-anticipated contest rather than him or any other individual over the next three days. “It’s been pretty tricky for me to get back on and fully focus these last few hours, especially this morning,” admitted the 28-year-old Yorkshireman. “I was disappointed in what he wrote and it put a bit of a downer on my first Ryder Cup for the last couple of days. Obviously it’s been tarnished slightly.
“Coming to America [as a European] you’re already a bit of a target and it kind of centred the attention a bit more upon myself. There’s some pretty rowdy American fans every Ryder Cup, that’s the nature of the beast, that’s what happens. Same when the guys come to Europe.
“You don’t mind the odd bit of heckling but hope it doesn’t go to far. I’m not saying it’s going to be completely forgotten but hopefully it’s died down a little bit more. I spoke to Davis yesterday and he was happy to draw a line under it. In an ideal world, the fans would do the same thing and and we won’t let it tarnish the 41st Ryder Cup.”
That view was echoed by Team USA player Patrick Reed, who incited the home crowd at Gleneagles two years ago with a “schhh” gesture in the singles. “It’s forgive and forget,” said Reed. “It’s unfortunate that something was said, but I’m hoping the fans can put it aside and allow the rookies, not only on our side but their side, to enjoy it and allow Danny to enjoy the week.”
The situation surrounding Willett seemed to cost him a place in today’s opening foursomes session as European captain Darren Clarke picked young Belgian Thomas Pieters instead of him to partner Lee Westwood. Andy Sullivan is the other rookie involved, partnering Rory McIlroy.