GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - Thousands of excited fans thronged the first tee three and a half hours before the start of the 12 final-day singles matches as the anticipation built at the 40th Ryder Cup on Sunday.
The European supporters, confident their team would not let slip a 10-6 overnight lead, belted out soccer-style chants at the top of their voices from the huge grandstands on a sunny day at Gleneagles.
“If you’re not excited by all this you must be dead,” four-times Europe captain Tony Jacklin told Sky Sports television. “It’s an incredible atmosphere and they’ve been here since first thing this morning.
“They will be thinking Paul McGinley’s men are almost there but with match play golf you just never know. I believe Europe will win comfortably by three or four points although we’ve seen some great last-day comebacks before.”
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell eventually went out at 1136 local time in the pivotal number one slot in the order, up against U.S. rookie Jordan Spieth.
“You’ve got Big Mac, we’ve got G-Mac,” yelled the crowd who were led by the noisy yellow and blue-clad ‘Guardians of the Ryder Cup’ group standing up at the front of the stands.
Both players hit their drives down the middle and as he marched up the fairway, McDowell turned round, raised both arms in the air and gave a thumbs-up to the fans.
While they waited for the second match between Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed to start, the crowd kept themselves amused by asking the European vice-captains to give them a dance as they stood by the tee.
Scot Sam Torrance offered up the briefest of brief Highland flings while Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez lit up a cigar before giving an exaggerated version of his famous warm-up routine where he sways his hips and bends his knees from side to side.
Captain Paul McGinley performed a quick Irish dance and former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who gave a locker-room speech to the European players at the start of the week, joined in with another brief jig.
The ‘Guardians of the Ryder Cup’ welcomed Swede Stenson on to the tee with an ABBA song but his opponent Reed was booed when he refused their ‘Patrick, Patrick, give us a dance’ pleas.
The grandstands rose as one when they spotted the great Jack Nicklaus walking to the tee for the start of match three between Rory McIlroy and close friend Rickie Fowler.
However, the biggest roars were reserved for crowd darling McIlroy as the fans cleared their throats for a rendition of “Rory, Rory, Rory” and the smiling world number one responded with another brief dance.
One of the most touching moments of the morning came when Justin Rose touched the hand of an iconic image of Ryder Cup hero Seve Ballesteros as he walked through the players tunnel ahead of match four against Hunter Mahan.
Europe only need four points from the singles to retain the trophy they won in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ two years ago.
Editing by John O'Brien