Saturday 3 December 2016

'I feel ashamed for my girlfriend' - Sergio Garcia blasts section of American fans at Ryder Cup

Carl Markham

Published 02/10/2016 | 08:41

Europe's Sergio Garcia with girlfriend Angela Akins at the Ryder Cup
Europe's Sergio Garcia with girlfriend Angela Akins at the Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup veteran Sergio Garcia admits the behaviour of some fans at Hazeltine left him ashamed for his American girlfriend.

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The Spaniard, who has been dating Golf Channel reporter Angela Akins for a year, said a rowdy crowd had made the atmosphere "quite poor".

World number three Rory McIlroy bore the brunt of the abuse over the last two days, ultimately having to ask for one man to be removed after he hurled abuse at him on the seventh hole of Saturday's afternoon fourballs, but most of the European team had suffered at some point from shouts from the gallery.

"It has been quite poor, I am not going to lie," Garcia, playing in his eighth Ryder Cup, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Oct 1, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to making a birdie on the tenth hole during the morning foursome matches in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to making a birdie on the tenth hole during the morning foursome matches in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

"It is unfortunate because I think 85 per cent of the people are great and I love playing in America - my girlfriend is American - but that 15 per cent is really bad and it makes them look bad.

"I feel ashamed for my girlfriend because I know how bad she feels when she hears all the things they tell us but it is what it is, simple as that."

One fan was heard to shout "Sergio, you suck" during the fourballs, leading to US vice-captain Tom Lehman telling people to calm down.

However, McIlroy came in for much worse and while walking to the eighth tee someone from the crowd yelled ''Suck a d*** Rory'' directly at the Northern Irishman, according to a number of on course reporters who were following the opening match of the afternoon fourballs.

A video clip posted on Twitter showed McIlroy doubling back - with some fans urging him to carry on walking and others calling for the offender to be kicked out - and confronting the man before then asking security to remove him.

Paired with rookie Thomas Pieters for both sessions, he won his morning foursomes 4&2 against Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson and the fourballs 3&1 against Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.

"Someone just said a few derogatory things I thought were over the line. I tried to get him removed. I'm not sure if he was removed or not but these things happen.

"You try your utmost for who you are playing and for who you are supporting. That particular guy, who is obviously in a very small minority, just took it a bit too far.

"It's a tough environment for us to come and play in, but you expect that. It's the same for the US guys when they come to play in Europe.

"You have to keep your concentration out there. It's been a long day and sometimes emotions run high, and we are just glad to get it done and move on, and help Europe get another point.

"It fuelled me a lot. The more they shouted the better we played, so hopefully they shout at us all day tomorrow."

Ian Poulter, a vice-captain this week after injury prevented him qualifying, tweeted: "Irrespective of the score the US players are policing the fans as they are embarrassed of their behaviour. Shame some spoiling this..."

Captain Darren Clarke tried to play down the issues but he admits some overstepped the mark.

"It's just the Ryder Cup and people are exuberant and enjoying themselves," he said.

"I'm sure that everybody will do their best to deal with it...people just seemed to enjoy themselves a little bit too much at times."

America's Jordan Spieth tried to do his part to quell the crowd interruptions by making interventions where he could, insisting he wanted the Ryder Cup to be played in a fair environment.

"I think that we just wanted to make sure that everybody could play their game," he said.

"You know there were times where it would quiet down and then you would get a fan or two that would just yell and single people out maybe.

"We wanted to just hush them down so that they (European players) were able to hit under the same conditions we were able to hit under. I think that's fair.

"Obviously, just like when we play over there, there's going to be cheers when shots are poor for the opponent and then extreme jubilation when we do something well.

"But we wanted to beat them at their best and we thought it would be fair to make sure that we did our part in, I guess, giving them the opportunity that we had when we were hitting shots."

Clarke was asked about the matter again as he held a press conference at the end of the day.

The Northern Irishman said: "It's disappointing but I think you have 99.99 per cent of the crowd out there that are wonderfully respectful. They are patriotic, yes, but they are wonderfully respectful.

"You're always going to have one or two idiots that say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and unfortunately that's happened.

"Overall the fans have been absolutely superb to us and it's unfortunate."

Asked specifically whether McIlroy might have been affected, Clarke said: "If you take a look at how Rory has performed I doubt it's bothered him. It's actually inspired him. He's played fantastic this week."

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