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'Hey Rory, [bleepity bleep]!'

Heckling's just part of the deal at the Ryder Cup

September 27, 2012|By Matt Lindner | For RedEye

Nobody wants to have insults yelled at them by a stranger.

But as a golfer for Team Europe playing in this weekend's Ryder Cup, Rory McIlroy said he's bracing himself for it.

"I hope that I won't get heckled, but if they do [heckle me], you've just gotta stay calm and play the best round of golf," said McIlroy, top-ranked player in the world.

"It's going to be intimidating, it's going to be difficult," said his teammate Ian Poulter.

With its lush fairways and expertly manicured greens, Medinah Country Club hardly bears any resemblance to the Thunderdome.

Unless you're playing for Team Europe this weekend, that is.

"This is gonna be a very loud week," Poulter said. "I would expect them to be very vocal and I think everybody's ready for that."

"Emotions run high here and obviously the majority will be pulling for the American team," McIlroy added.

Fans want to metaphorically kill the players and the players metaphorically want to do the same to their rivals.

"There's something about Ryder Cup where you can be great mates with somebody, but boy do you want to kill him," Poulter said. "It's passion like you've never seen before."

That's because it's more than just individual pride at stake.

The Ryder Cup pits America against Europe in an intercontinental battle for golf supremacy. Everyone—from the fans coming in from around the world to the players themselves—seems awed by the enormity of it all, regardless of whether it's their first time experiencing it.

"I never really thought it meant that much to every 15-, 20-handicapper back home," said Nicolas Colsaerts, a Belgian golfer playing in his first Ryder Cup. "The size of it, the number of people involved in it just taking care of us only. It's just the reaction of the people. You know you're playing for the flag and you know you're playing for the team."

All told, more than 100,000 fans are expected to converge on tiny Medinah to see the best golfers in the world play the game on its biggest stage, an average of 40,000 per day.

During practice rounds, many fans walked around wearing patriotic costumes for their home countries, with Brits sporting the Union Jack and an American or two dressed like Uncle Sam.

Poulter's playing in his fourth Ryder Cup this weekend. He said the atmosphere never gets old.

"It means too much to Europe, it means too much to us for it to ever lose that edge," he said. "I just love this event more than any other event in the world. I get very excited to play, I get very excited to put this shirt on and have this crest on my chest."

At least one member of Team Europe is hoping the home crowd will go easy on him since he's practically, you know, their neighbor.

"Hopefully I can garner a little bit of support from the crowd because of that and turn that into a slight advantage for Team Europe. It is a unique experience for me," said Luke Donald, a Northwestern alum who makes his home in the Chicago area.

But even if he can't help swing some of that fan sentiment, his teammates say they're going to make it their goal to use the fan hostility to their advantage.

"I guess I'm one of those guys who is going to be out enjoying the electricity," Poulter said. "Chicago is a great sporting town. For me, it adds to the electricity, adds to the adrenaline rush."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.


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