McIl­roy hits back at fan in F-word tirade as tem­pers boil

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Ryder Cup - By Tom Cary at Le Golf Na­tional

Europe’s cap­tain, Thomas Bjorn, shrugged off an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Rory McIl­roy as tem­pers threat­ened to boil over on a rau­cous day at the Ry­der Cup.

Af­ter hol­ing a birdie putt early in his af­ter­noon four­somes, McIl­roy turned an­grily to one spec­ta­tor who had ques­tioned his tech­nique and shouted: “Who can’t putt? Who can’t putt? I can putt. I can putt. F------ come on!”

The North­ern Ir­ish­man, play­ing with Ian Poul­ter, ended up go­ing down 4 & 3 to Jor­dan Spi­eth and Justin Thomas. Ear­lier in the week, McIl­roy ad­mit­ted he had paid the price for fail­ing to con­trol his emo­tions in his sin­gles match with Patrick Reed at Hazel­tine two years ago.

Bjorn said he was not aware of the in­ci­dent. “He hasn’t men­tioned it to me and I wasn’t there,” said the Dane. “If it was im­por­tant he would have men­tioned it to me.”

And Bjorn showed faith in McIl­roy – who, to­gether with Ser­gio Gar­cia, crushed Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka in the morn­ing four­balls – by giv­ing him the re­spon­si­bil­ity of go­ing out first in to­day’s sin­gles matches against Justin Thomas.

Europe’s play­ers by and large re­sponded to the par­ti­san back­ing of the crowds at Le Golf Na­tional.

It was pre­dicted in the build-up to this Ry­der Cup that the crowds might be a bit more rau­cous than is typ­i­cally the case in Europe.

Justin Rose noted that with the match tak­ing place on French soil, rather than a tra­di­tional golf­ing heart­land such as Scot­land, where the fans are “very knowl­edge­able, very re­spect­ful”, there might be more of a “main­stream” sports crowd.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see the dy­namic in terms of how that feels for us,” Rose said. “I would wel­come an at­mos­phere that’s more of a ‘sports’ crowd and a bit more rau­cous, and a bit more as we face it in Amer­ica.”

Rose cer­tainly got his wish yes­ter­day. There was a def­i­nite edge to pro­ceed­ings in Paris, al­most from the first hole. Tiger Woods de­clined to con­cede a short putt to Tommy Fleet­wood early in their morn­ing four­balls, prompt­ing the Merseysider to turn to his cad­die and ask: “What was that about?” af­ter rolling home his putt.

Sky Sports were fre­quently forced to apol­o­gise for bad lan­guage. Woods was one of at least three play­ers heard to use the word “f---” dur­ing the day – along with McIl­roy and Thomas, while golf­ing tra­di­tion­al­ists would al­most cer­tainly have been of­fended by some of the other be­hav­iour on display.

There was fre­quent cheer­ing at missed Amer­i­can putts, while Dustin John­son was twice seen spit­ting dur­ing his round. Oth­ers, though, will be happy that Europe’s crowds are be­gin­ning to match their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts for cre­at­ing a hos­tile at­mos­phere, even if it did get per­sonal on oc­ca­sion.

Patrick Reed, the United States’ hero at Hazel­tine two years ago and a man who likes to re­fer to him­self as “Cap­tain Amer­ica”, had a mis­er­able morn­ing with Woods, the pair go­ing down 4&3 to Fleet­wood and Francesco Moli­nari. Reed’s mis­ery would have been made more acute af­ter one fan was heard to shout “Patrick, show us your tit­ties!”.

McIl­roy was twice heck­led by green­side fans. On the 12th, as he pre­pared to putt for birdie, one shouted: “But Rory, you live in Florida!” McIl­roy drained the putt to put Europe four up in that match, pumped his fist and turned to shrug at his heck­ler.

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