CHASKA, Minn. (AP) — To all the hecklers who shouted at him for 33 holes Saturday at the Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy has just one thing to say.
Bring it on.
“The more they shouted, the better we played,” McIlroy said. “I hope they shout at us all day tomorrow.”
The 50,000 or so fans who jammed into Hazeltine National Golf Club sure did so Saturday, heckling McIlroy at every opportunity as he and playing partner Thomas Pieters came up big again for the European team. They won both their matches, and they did it with some flair before huge crowds that cheered them only when they made mistakes.
If the noise is really welcome, though, the European team will need all it can get on Sunday when it faces a daunting task of coming back from a three-point deficit to keep the cup they have won the last three times out.
“Obviously the heckling is there, but as Rory says it just pumps us up,” Pieters said.
A day that began with much promise for the European team ended on a down note after Lee Westwood missed a short putt on the 18th hole that would have given he and Danny Willett a half point in their match against J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore. That left the European team down 9 1/2-6 1/2, needing a comeback in singles play along the lines of the 2012 team outside Chicago to retain the cup on Sunday.
The deficit was no fault of McIlroy and Pieters, their top pairing on both of the day’s sessions.
McIlroy, who bowed twice to the crowd Friday when he and Pieters closed out their match with an eagle putt on No. 16, teamed with Pieters to take down Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in the morning and Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka in the afternoon.
They did it while making some noise of their own, with McIlroy roaring loudly and pumping his fist every time he or Pieters made a clutch birdie.
“I feel like I need to take a couple Advil,” McIlroy said. “I have a sore head listening to all those the last day, day and a half. I feel like I’ve been able to focus pretty well and I’ve played some of my best golf and the last three matches we’ve played, it’s been three points on the board. I’d give myself a pretty high mark for that.”
For the most part the fans were good spirited in their heckling, yelling out “Ro-ry! Ro-ry” in a mocking way and telling him after he made a bogey on No. 16 that “Six is good!”
One got a little carried away by taunting McIlroy with a sexual reference while he was walking off the seventh green, causing McIlroy to seek out a marshal to try and have him removed.
“These things happen,” McIlroy said. “It’s golf at the end of the day. You try to keep the utmost respect for who you’re playing and for who you’re supporting. You know, that particular guy, this is obviously in the very, very small minority, just took it a bit too far.”
Other Europeans weren’t as happy with the crowd, with Sergio Garcia saying 15 percent of the fans were saying things they shouldn’t and that his American girlfriend was embarrassed. Captain Darren Clarke also said a few went overboard, though it was pretty much expected.
“It’s just The Ryder Cup and people are exuberant and enjoying themselves,” Clarke said. “It’s just part of the whole Ryder Cup thing. I’m sure that everybody will do their best to deal with it and people just seemed to enjoy themselves a little bit too much at times.”
McIlroy and Pieters, though, seemed to thrive on the noise, making six birdies in 16 holes in alternate shot in the morning to beat Fowler and Mickelson. They made nine birdies and an eagle in better ball, including a putt by Pieters on the 17th hole that thwarted a comeback by Johnson and Koepka.
Pieters, a Ryder Cup rookie, and McIlroy won all three of their points over two days, and McIlroy suggested a new Ryder Cup pairing had emerged for the matches two years from now in Paris.
“I think you’ll see this pairing in Paris,” he said.
While McIlroy and Pieters were in top form, only one other European pairing won a full point in Saturday’s matches. Justin Rose and Chris Wood beat Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson in the morning, but Woods was not in the afternoon lineup and Rose and Henrik Stenson lost their match to Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Europe will need to win 7 1/2 of the 12 points available in singles to retain the cup.
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