In 2004, Ryder Cup officials told players that they didn’t have to sign autographs for the fans at Oakland Hills.
European captain Bernhard Langer instructed his players to do just the opposite – sign autographs, interact with the Michigan patrons, do anything they could to help the home fans bond with the away team.
Current European skipper Padraig Harrington seems to be employing a similar tactic in Wisconsin.
The Euros were sporting green-and-yellow striped outfits on Wednesday at Whistling Straits, a definite homage to the Green Bay Packers.
They also wore and threw cheeseheads to the crowd on the first tee. Perhaps the strategy is working.
“[T]he U.S. fans have been brilliant so far. They really have,” said longtime U.S. nemesis Ian Poulter on Wednesday. “They're wishing me well. Not too well, but they're wishing me well, which is quite nice. That hasn't always been the case, but so far so good.”
Wearing a Packers-inspired beanie and his long hair flowing out underneath, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood even looked like a smaller version of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Harrington said this has been in the works for nearly two years. The team's clothing provider suggested an Irish theme for one day and Harrington didn't want to go that route, saying his team is a collective European unit.
"I'm not really into that sort of stuff, so I came up with, why don't we do something with Wisconsin. Obviously, the Green Bay Packers fit both the Irish and the Green Bay Packers, and then the cheeseheads came in and a bit of fun with it," Harrington said Wednesday.
"Look, it's lighthearted. You want it that way in practice. It's somewhat respectful of obviously the Green Bay Packers, and they were very much on board with this, so a bit of fun and we got a nice reception with it. That's kind of what you want on the practice days. Obviously, business starts on Friday, but at the moment the players are enjoying it and having a good time of it."
For the record, Europe won the '04 Ryder Cup, 18 1/2 - 9 1/2, for the largest Euro route in cup history. Harrington was part of that team, going 4-1.