By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) – European Ryder Cup player Danny Willett and captain Darren Clarke apologized on Wednesday over a crude rant from the Masters champion’s brother about the nature of U.S. crowds he expects this week at Hazeltine.
In an article published on nationalclubgolfer.com, a magazine website, Pete Willett wrote in part: “They need to silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer …
“They need to smash the obnoxious dads, with their shiny teeth, Lego man hair, medicated ex-wives, and resentful children.”
Willett and Clarke emphatically distanced themselves and the team from the diatribe, which was laced with political jabs and swipes using caricatures of Americans.
“I’d just like to apologize obviously to everyone involved for what’s been said,” Willett said. “It’s obviously not the thoughts of myself and of the team and of captain Darren.”
Clarke said as soon as he was made aware of the article he sought out Willett, who was practising on the golf course.
“He’s bitterly disappointed in his brother’s article. It is not what Danny thinks. It is not what I think. It is not what Team Europe stands for,” Clarke said.
Willett said he telephoned his brother after being made aware of what was written.
“I said to Pete I was obviously disappointed in what was said and what was written about the American fans that obviously took me under their wing fantastically back in April,” he told Golf Channel, alluding to his triumph at Augusta National.
“As soon as I got done on the golf course, I went to see Davis (U.S. Captain Love), and me and Davis had a chat for a few minutes about it all, and he took it very well and I think he’s drawn a line under it for himself and for the team.
“So hopefully everybody else can do the same and hopefully we can get on and have a great tournament.”
The tone of the posting harkened back to a time in Ryder Cup competition at Kiawah Island (1991) and Brookline (1999) where some U.S. fans’ actions rose beyond partisanship to rowdy and offensive behavior.
Following those matches, a concerted effort was made by captains on both sides to stress model sportsmanship and appeal to crowds to respect all participants.
Willett said the comments were a big distraction on Wednesday.
“It was obviously going crazy, obviously through social media and stuff. Yeah, it is tough to then concentrate, because you don’t want people to think badly of yourself,” he said.
Clarke said the fans at Hazeltine have been very welcoming.
“The fans could not have been nicer and better to us this week, and hopefully that continues,” Clarke said.
(Editing by Andrew Both)