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At Ryder Cup's First Hole, a Rousing Start, With a Chorus
By SP_COP on September 26, 2014 | From www.nytimes.com
At Ryder Cup's First Hole, a Rousing Start, With a Chorus You never know where a Ryder Cup match might finish, but you do know where one starts, which explained the crush outside of Gleneagles very early Friday morning.

The plan was to open the gates at 6 a.m., but according to officials, they were opened shortly before that to accommodate the huddled masses yearning for a place on the first tee.

It did not take long for each of the 1,844 seats in the grandstand to be occupied. There were flags. There were songs. There was bonhomie and a few hoots at Americans who attempted to articulate their own love of country.

And that was long before the first players, the two captains and the apparently infinite number of vice captains began to arrive. They appeared a few minutes before 7:30, walking through the narrow tunnel, lined with images of past Ryder Cup stalwarts, that leads from the practice ground to the proving ground.

The first photographs they saw along the way were of Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin; the last of Raymond Floyd and the great Seve Ballesteros. And after a left turn and a few more uphill strides, the players were at the first tee box and accompanied by — whatever their team affiliation — chants of “Eurrr-ope!” “Eurrr-ope!”

That cheer still does not quite roll off the tongue in a sporting context, even after all these years. But it still was quite a stroll, quite a moment for men who spend most of the year playing for cash instead of country. There is nothing else in golf quite like it.

“It was a rush, of course, adrenaline pumping,” said Henrik Stenson, a Swede who ended up having an opening day to savor for Europe. “We knew we were going to get a fabulous reception, and we certainly got that. That’s a memory for life.”

Frankly, it should have been fabulous. There has not been a Ryder Cup in Scotland for 41 years, and Gleneagles was named the host course for this Cup all the way back in 2001.

Olympic host cities get named only seven years in advance. Scotland had nearly twice as long to get this Cup right, and it was hard not to shake the head in disbelief as the American Webb Simpson set up for the very first shot of this long-awaited event and the official starter Ivor Robson intoned: “On the teeeee, Bubba Watson.”
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Sorry, let’s try that again.

“It was the first shot of the Ryder Cup; he was nervous, too,” Watson said of Robson.

Even edgier was the deer that showed up at the first tee — before the next group teed off — and found itself trapped in the spotlight dashing through the crowd outside and inside the ropes.

But everything else went according to plan Friday morning (unless you were an Ian Poulter fan). And the weather was already — fingers double crossed — a big improvement over the last two Cups in Europe, when heavy rain made Wellington boots a necessity, not an accessory, at the K Club in Ireland in 2006 and at Celtic Manor in Wales in 2010.

“Could be just as bad here,” said George O’Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, in an interview at the first tee Friday. “But they must have done something right, because the Lord has blessed us with perfect weather for this time of year.”
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O’Grady first played an official role at a Ryder Cup in 1977 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, when golfers from continental Europe had not yet joined forces with golfers from Britain and Ireland to take on the Americans.

The first tee was a more sedate place way back then.

“In 1977, there was a small tee behind the pro shop, so no public could get back to it,” O’Grady said. “All you had on the first tee then was the players, the caddies, the referee and the starter, and one or two other sort of P.G.A. officials. Everybody else had to go up and meet them by the green, so there was none of this jingoistic stuff.”

If it were only the jingoistic stuff, it would not be nearly as much fun. But today’s first-tee experience is one part nationalism and one part witticism, with the prime real estate in the front row occupied by eight men who bill themselves as the Guardians of the Cup and are both local choir and Greek chorus, performing songs prepared well in advance for each of the 12 European players, but also improvising.

They have done this in recent Cups, too, but the act keeps getting better and more colorful. Friday’s uniform: yellow caps and shirts and blue vests adorned with stars and “Guardians.”

If they have a downside, it is that they have transformed the crowd around them into an audience, which may explain why, even in a bigger grandstand, the first tee never sounded quite so loud as it did at Medinah Country Club near Chicago in 2012.

There were no shortage of chuckles, however, as Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” was transformed once again into “Kaymer Chameleon” (for Martin Kaymer); “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” was transformed once again into “Walking in a Poulter Wonderland;” and “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” was transformed for the first time into “Glory, Glory Stevie Gallacher.”

The Greek chorus clearly was no oracle, however, as Poulter and Gallacher, the only Scot in this Cup, were neither wondrous nor glorious and were unexpectedly routed, 5 and 4, by the Americans Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, both Cup rookies....
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NAMES: Jordan Spieth, Ian Poulter

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