The Irishman expects fan behaviour at the Ryder Cup to be an even bigger issue in four years' time
Sadly, among all the great golf that was on show at this year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, fan behaviour was once again thrust into the spotlight.
At no other event in the sport do the actions of those in attendance cross the line so regularly, and it was made worse this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With certain international travel restrictions still in place, the Wisconsin crowds were made up almost entirely of Americans, so it was no surprise to hear of European players, captains, caddies and even partners being booed and heckled, particularly as the days wore on.
And fresh off his debut appearance, Shane Lowry believes it’s only going to get (a lot) worse when the event returns to the USA in 2025 at Bethpage Black in New York.
Ahead of this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, the Irishman told Paddy Power what his rookie experience was like.
“At the start of the week, I was thinking, ‘this is a bit mad’. It’s pretty cool as you’re being booed all over the shop, but as the week goes on, it does get pretty annoying especially when you’re getting beat,” Lowry said.
“It’s quite a frustrating situation to be in, but I didn’t mind playing in front of the crowd.
“I loved standing on the first tee and taking all of those boos. It didn’t bother me. I stood up on the first tee and probably made my three best drives of the week down the first.
“I think Bethpage Black in four years’ time will be 100 times worse than last week.
“Hopefully I’ll be there, and I’ll have this to come back to. When we get there, I hope Covid will be gone and we’ll have European fans able to travel over because that was a big thing.”
As expected, the hosts used the crowds to their advantage, wasting no opportunity to rile them up. Most of the talking was done with their golf, but there was some gamesmanship that didn’t sit particularly well with Lowry and co.
For reasons that are hard to fathom, the likes of Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau seemed perplexed when they were made to hole what they obviously felt should have been a gimme.
The pair even took the time to feign disbelief by laying their putters on the green to suggest it was within a shaft’s length – a move usually reserved for club hackers.
Butch Harmon labelled it “classless”, while Lowry fed off the hypocrisy.
“For a start, Bryson Dechambeau’s putter is about four feet long so it was definitely not a gimme,” he quipped.
“Justin Thomas did the same thing and then I did the same thing but purely because Justin Thomas did it. They made me hit a putt from literally 18 inches on the first so I did the exact same thing because I was annoyed with the picture I’d seen of him that morning.
“The problem was, every time an American putted inside six feet, I was getting booed if I didn’t give it to them. They obviously played up to the crowd.
“I wasn’t giving them anything last week because I was getting booed. I was playing with Tyrrell Hatton on Saturday afternoon and he wanted to give them a couple of putts and I said ‘no, let’s just let them see the ball in’. It was a bit of gamesmanship from me as well.”
After capping off a superb win alongside Hatton as evening fell on Saturday, the Irishman was entrusted to follow Rory McIlroy out in game two of the Sunday singles to get some early blue on the board.
His opponent, the recently crowned FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year, Patrick Cantlay, further lit Lowry’s fuse as the pair approached the turn.
“Patrick riling up the crowd on the 8th hole whilst I was lining up my putt annoyed me quite a lot, and I didn’t feel that it was good from him, but it is what it is,” Lowry added.
“In Rome, we’ll hopefully win and win in a different style, that’s how I’m looking at it.
“They used the crowd to their advantage last week and it obviously worked for them. It was hard to play golf in that atmosphere.
“If we were doing something good, you didn’t know about it or hear about it. The very minute they did something good, you’d hear roars because the matches are so close together. You just hear cheers and you just think ‘oh that’s another hole lost’ but it is what it is.”