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Ryder Cup gets underway in classic, raucous form

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Ryder Cup
Fog rolls in at the first hole at Hazeltine National Golf Club during the Ryder Cup Friday.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The much-anticipated Ryder Cup golf tournament, which is more like a raucous soccer match than a sober golf tournament, is underway in Chaska, Minn.

  It pits 12 U.S. golfers against 12 European golfers. Weather permitting, the tournament runs through Sunday.  

Seats started filling at 5 a.m. Friday, with fans who scored special tickets and volunteers crowding into the bleachers around the first tee box.  

Liam Collins of Dublin, Ireland, was in the bleachers by 5:30 a.m. The diehard Europe fan says Ryder Cup has become tradition for him.  

"This is my 8th Ryder cup, so I'm a little bit committed," he said. "This is just raw, unadulterated emotion. It's the only time in golf where it's a team sport and it's fantastic comradery."

  In the morning rounds, each team fielded eight golfers. Four pairs from the U.S. played against four pairs from Europe.  From the first tee, it was apparent there were plenty of rowdy supporters.  

A group of Europeans dressed in blue pants and vests covered in yellow stars serenaded golfers on the tee box with a Culture Club song, rewritten for German golfer Martin Kaymar.

On the U.S. side, a group from Minnesota that calls itself the American Marshalls led the crowd in cheers and songs.

"[I've] been to the Masters and the PGAs and U.S. Opens and stuff, but this is different," said Hazeltine golf club member Michael Jacobs. "Everybody is ready to start cheering. this isn't like it is in regular golf. This is like a football game."  

As the teams played through morning, crowds packed in along ropes lining the fairways and into bleachers around greens. Chants of "U.S.A" broke out when the Americans took a hole.   

Every few feet, someone wearing was a Spanish flag draped around their shoulders or an American flag suit.  

Mark Allen of New Orleans and three of his friends latched onto the patriotism theme common among most Ryder Cup garb, but they decided to take it back a few years.

Mark Allen and friends at Ryder Cup
Mark Allen and friends pose for a picture at the Ryder Cup on Friday.
Peter Cox | MPR News

"We decided to dress a George Washington," he said. "It's colonial garb, powdered wig. This, I believe is called a jabot, and knee-high socks and buckles that are barely holding on."     Their patriotic gear seemed to work. By hole 16, most of the U.S. teams had sealed their victories.   

But the U.S. duo of Phil Mickelson and Ricky Fowler stepped to the tee at 17, tied after a back and forth battle with their European counterparts.  

Fowler dropped an iron shot 10 feet from the hole on the 176 yard par three.   

With the next shot, Europe put one in the water and conceded the hole.   

The U.S. took four points in the morning. They need 14.5 over the weekend to win the Ryder Cup.  

After a hard fought round, Mickelson described the fans as very supportive, but still respectful of the traditional decorum of golf.

  "The fans here were very supportive of the United States and not antagonistic against our opponent," Mickelson said, "and it really had the spirit of what the Ryder Cup is about."