‘Pretty awful stuff’: Ex-Ryder Cup captain warns ‘hostile’ hecklers are major issue

Aemrican Ryder Cup fans cheer at 2021 Ryder Cup

Rowdy American fans cheer on the U.S. team during the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

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The Ryder Cup is truly an event unlike any other in men’s professional golf. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact there is no money on the line, the intensity and pressure is ratcheted to the max, for both players and fans alike.

At times, that passion leads to incidents involving overexcited fans going overboard and verbally abusing players on the visiting team.

Former European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington acknowledged as much. In an interview with The Telegraph ahead of this week’s event in Rome, Harrington warned about the growing issue of increasingly “hostile” crowds heckling Ryder Cup players with “unrepeatable” taunts.

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Even players families are not safe from some groups of fans who often turn “ugly” during heated moments, Harrington told The Telegraph.

“It’s not just the players, either,” Harrington said. “The same as in America, the wives and families are being singled out by hecklers as well, with some pretty awful stuff going on. I’ve heard of people even being spat at and some of the taunting is unrepeatable. It’s reached the stage now that relatives must even wonder if they should go out on to the course. It should be a nice, proud experience for them, but that’s proving not the case.”

Harrington went on to share that when he was a European assistant captain in 2016 at Hazeltine, Rory McIlroy nearly “jumped into the crowd” to go after a particularly abusive American heckler.

The three-time major winner even suggested that the increased hostility may be the reason recent Ryder Cups have been won by the home team, telling The Telegraph, “I’ve started to believe it’s as much to do with the hostile atmospheres the visitors have to face.”

Complaints about American fans at Ryder Cups are commonplace, with each event held in the U.S. marked by at least a few protests from European players.

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But for his part, Harrington admitted that it is no longer solely an American issue. European fans can be just as bad.

“I wish I could say it is one-way traffic, but it isn’t and we should realize that and look at our own backyard as well… and we should bear that in mind at Rome,” he told The Telegraph.

With the newest iteration of the pitched competition set to begin in less than two days, we’ll soon find out if this Ryder Cup will turn out any differently. But don’t count on it.

Come 2025, when the Ryder Cup heads to New York’s Bethpage Black, the European team could be in store for a more raucous crowd than they’ve ever encountered.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.