Fans embrace France's first Ryder Cup

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (France) (AFP) –


French golf fans have flocked to Le Golf National all week, and they found their voice on a dramatic Saturday as Europe stretched into an imposing lead over the United States.

Roars could he heard echoing across the back nine, with spectators surrounding empty greens, eagerly awaiting the players and joining in the cheers when holed putts were shown on big screens.

Any suspicions that the spectators in France would be more interested in the star power of American Tiger Woods were misplaced, as the inspirational European pairing of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood received partisan encouragement throughout their second straight win over Woods and Patrick Reed in the fourballs.

One Frenchman was left a little disgruntled that the 14-time major champion lost so heavily on Saturday, letting out a groan, but only because he had been patiently waiting to see Woods on the 16th green, with the match finishing the hole before.

The magnificent layout on the Albatros course, with its undulations designed specifically to help spectators, saw the fans squeeze around green at least 50 deep as the tightest matches reached their conclusions.

The biggest roar of the day was reserved for Ryder Cup hero Sergio Garcia, as the Spaniard curled home a long putt to end a thrilling American comeback on the 17th.

In contrast to Ryder Cups on US soil, the European fans in the main part have stayed respectful to the visiting players, usually meeting their better shots with polite applause and not overly celebrating the poor ones.

But seven-time women's major champion Karrie Webb wasn't happy with their conduct.

"I think this display from the fans @rydercup are showing how little knowledge the French golf fans have," tweeted the Australian. "Booing before someone hits or cheering after a (bad) shot is not golf never should be."

Over 40 percent of tickets sold have been to French fans, but the usual songs of the Britons can be heard ringing around the course.

The atmosphere surrounding the first tee is often lauded as the greatest in golf, but the decibel levels significantly increase later in the rounds as more birdies, and beers, are sunk.

- Americans drowned out -

Americans make up just five percent of the 190,000 fans expected at the Albatros course over the three days of competition, and although the odd chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A," broke out, it was often met by jeers and loud cries of "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole" accompanied by renditions of the 'Viking clap'.

US tourists have done their best to edge out their European rivals in the fancy dress stakes, but the home fans were given a flying start by a British man in an inflatable dinosaur costume during the practice rounds, and have carried on that momentum into the weekend.

Plenty of eye-catching suits inspired by the European flags are dotted all over the course, with giant cut-outs of Garcia and Rory McIlroy's faces serving as props.

McIlroy appeared to respond to one US fan after draining a clutch putt as the tension increased on Saturday, after the guilty party seemed to suggest to the four-time major winner that "he couldn't putt".

The more European putts that drop, the louder the crowd will become and the more distant the Americans' target of winning away from home for the first time since 1993 will seem.

"I've always admired the European crowd, the fans here, the support of their team," US captain Jim Furyk said. "I admire the way they band together and can be louder as one with the songs, with the chants. They seem so unified and together."