Loose Style Endears Europeans

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04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Colin Montgomerie can be stuffy at times. Not at this Ryder Cup.
 
The Scot made plenty of friends Thursday at Oakland Hills Country Club, hardly resembling the guy who was heckled with such passion at the last Ryder Cup held in the United States.
 
During a practice round, Montgomerie was putting uphill from 30 feet at the par-3 13th. He kept leaving the ball short, then did the same with a shorter attempt. That prompted a bit of unsolicited advice from fan Bill Crandall, sitting greenside: 'You gotta get it there, Monty!'
 
Montgomerie, long a whipping boy for American fans, promptly invited Crandall, a 25-year-old accountant from nearby Grosse Pointe, to try the putt himself.
 
Crandall also left the putt short, but the 5-minute episode brought cheers from the crowd and exhibited a looseness among the European squad that has contrasted the more serious demeanor of America's players.
 
The U.S. team, which lost the last Ryder Cup in 2002, has been treating this like any other PGA Tour event, politely waving off autograph requests as players walk from green to tee saying, 'After the round.'
 
Fred Funk hammed it up for the crowd, as he usually does, but Tiger Woods has been all business. Woods hissed at a British photographer Thursday who was shooting pictures as Chris Riley tried to tee off.
 
The Europeans, meanwhile, have made themselves accessible to fans on and off the course, signing autographs and mugging for photos.
 
Sergio Garcia signed so many autographs Thursday he was late getting to the ninth tee. He bantered with a woman walking up to the green. Then, he noticed a boy with Down's Syndrome waving to him with an Oakland Hills flag. Garcia stopped, directed a cameraman to bring him the flag, and signed it.
 
When it was delivered back to the boy, he thrust both arms in the air as if he had just made the winning putt.
 
Europeans captain Bernhard Langer suggested that his players have fun with the American fans, perhaps to diminish any home-field advantage.
 
'Obviously, we're here to win the Cup, but at the same time we're also here to behave like gentlemen and entertain and interact with people because without the people, there wouldn't be a golf tournament,' Langer said.
 
Still, when the real competition begins Friday, most expect the 'Us vs. Them' mentality that has defined the biennial matches over the years.
 
'This is practice,' said Tom Wilkins Jr. of Ann Arbor, watching play at No. 14 on Thursday. 'Everybody here today is a fan of golf. You want to see good shots, maybe pick up a tip or two. When the matches start, it'll be different.'
 
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