There is nothing quite like the 1st tee at a Ryder Cup

The Scoop

Alex Perry was at the 1st tee as the 2018 Ryder Cup got underway – an experience, he writes, like no other in sport

There is nothing quite like the 1st tee at a Ryder Cup.

Well, there is definitely nothing quite like the 1st tee at a Ryder Cup when it’s the 1st tee at Le Golf National.

The actual tee box itself is sunk into the ground to allow a natural amphitheatre to form around it. Oh, and then there is the small matter of the gargantuan grandstand behind it.

It’s so big Ryder Cup officials don’t even know how many seats it has. “About 6,900,” they say, shrugging. All I know is that if you’re sitting in the very back row, load up on protein before your trip. That’s a lot of seats that will be sat in for probably a total of six hours over the course of the week.

The gates opened fully two hours and 10 minutes before the opening shot was struck, and yet people were lining up in the pitch black desperate to get a good spot, whether that be in the stand or packed in the small standing area directly behind the tee.

In what other sporting event would this happen? Golf fans are bonkers. Sports fans in the US like to tailgate, but there’s a huge difference between eating burgers and “shooting hoops in the parking lot” and queuing in single-figure temperatures just to watch 16 tee shots.

I head out around an hour before the opening fourball was due to get underway and there isn’t a single seat left available. By now hordes of people have lined the fairway and, some 500 yards or so in the distance, the small bleacher and grassy mound behind the 2nd hole are gridlock.

I arrive to chants to “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” (Not for me, I mean that’s what the fans were singing when I happened to turn up.) Then the compere screams “EUROPE! EUROPE!” into his microphone.

Hang on, there’s a compere? When did this happen? There are “about 6,900” people here – why do we need a compere?

At Gleneagles, four years ago, the atmosphere was electric from the moment the fans flocked to the 1st tee to the moment they left. There was no need for this forced fun.

But there is nothing forced when Ian Poulter, not playing in the morning fourballs, is the first on the tee and immediately sets about getting the singers going. “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!” I’m almost certain Poulter just plays this chant in his house when he’s… I dunno, probably cooking.

The compere, presumably unimpressed by The Postman stealing his limelight, pulls out his wildcard: The Thunderclap. And, in his defence, it’s a pretty cool spectacle…

Finally, the players arrive. Boos for the American players, yays for the European. Though the booing is so unconvincing it’s almost polite, like the Europeans are saying: “Ryder Cup convention says I must boo you, but we don’t agree with it.”

“But it isn’t golf!” they cry. Well, neither is the Ryder Cup, really.

It happens in every other sport, so why shouldn’t it happen here? Imagine English rugby fans turning up at, say, Murrayfield, or the Millennium Stadium to be greeted with polite applause. It would be odd.

This is golf’s greatest rivalry – and the players love it.

The fans chant for a player from each group to “start the clap”. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood oblige.

Then Tiger Woods arrives – to booing. They’re booing Tiger Woods! Incredible. “Tiger! Start the clap!” they sing. Don’t do it, Tiger. Please don’t do it.

Of course he doesn’t do it. He just stares straight down the fairway. Maybe he didn’t hear them.

There is nothing quite like the 1st tee at a Ryder Cup.

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