Opening ceremony ramps up Ryder Cup hype

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MEDINAH, Ill. – Mercifully, only a few more hours of hype remain before the 39th Ryder Cup gets under way. It figures to be a motion picture of epic proportions. Thanks for sitting through the previews.

But first, on a chilly fall afternoon, thousands of fans crammed the grounds at Medinah Country Club to catch a glimpse of the 24 players who will begin play early Friday morning (7:20 a.m. local time).

An orchestra played. Flags were raised. Anthems were sung. Justin Timberlake recited a poem and attempted to crack jokes. And, most importantly, Friday foursomes pairings were announced.

Highlighted by a spirited performance from Josh Ledet and the Soul Children of Chicago – who covered the Beatles’ “Come Together,” a fitting ode for this biennial exhibition – Thursday’s opening ceremony took on a tone of friendship and camaraderie, perhaps in an attempt to remind what could be a vocal (and hopefully respectful) Chicago crowd.

The hourlong ceremony went off without a hitch, save for two minor blemishes.

First, there was no flyover from the 139th Fighter Unit from New Orleans. The crowd sighed. Eventually, a Boeing 747 roared through the partly cloudy sky. As NBC Sports anchor Dan Hicks quipped, “Nope, that’s not it.”

Then, U.S. captain Davis Love III mistakenly announced Jim Furyk as having joined the Sea Island Mafia, despite the 42-year-old Ryder Cup veteran having lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for several years. (Love quickly realized the mistake, and later cracked wise about it.)

Love called captaining the U.S. team the “honor of my life,” and emphasized that the Ryder Cup should be about friendship, both before and after the matches, because, “in this world, we need all the friends we can find.”

Olazabal was slightly more animated in his prepared speech, razzing the crowd with this line: “I know how much you want to win this lovely golden trophy, but we have every intention of bringing it back home with us.”

In speaking about Seve, his dear friend and countryman who passed away in 2011, Olazabal said the lively Spaniard embodied the core values of this competition: to never quit, to always be ready, to prepare to face all adversity.

“Most of all,” Olazabal said, “I learned from him what true passion is all about. Seve, we miss you.”

At the very end of the ceremony, after an hour of buildup, pairings for Friday foursomes were announced, much to the delight of a bundled-up crowd.

Fans roared louder with each matchup, and soon they would make their way toward the exit, sizing up which team has an advantage, deciding which match is the most intriguing.

It was over, the opening ceremony and much of the insufferable hype. Not a moment too soon.