SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France—The loudest noise that came from the first tee grandstand was when it emptied. Descending from their allocated top row, the reaction of the media was a collective shrug. “Meh.” The energy of Le Golf National’s opening tee shots had not matched the recent Cups at Hazeltine and Gleneagles. After a French DJ blaring dance music failed to get the crowd riled, Jon Rahm and his caddie tried. Even the taciturn American captain, Jim Furyk, initiated a wave of overhead clapping. The “Ole” chant against Patrick Reed was in such synchrony with his practice swings that it seemed to help his rhythm.
But let’s not indict France’s passion for golf just yet. Unlike Great Britain and the United States, where getting barbarically drunk early in the morning is intertwined with sports fandom, that’s not done here. Children may have a glass of wine with a meal, but the European attitude toward alcohol tends toward pleasantly subdued. There’s a whole day to enjoy. Better to watch some golf, find a nice spot in the fescue to recline with your girlfriend and share a cigarette, then go watch some more.
To be sure, so far the best hat on any fan sported neither European or American colors. In purple letters it read, “Make Love Great Again.”
Victor Dubuisson, the last Frenchman to play in a Ryder Cup, is fishing this week. European captain Thomas Bjorn has no French vice-captains, though Jean van de Velde or Thomas Levet might’ve made fine choices. But given the insouciance of the national character, it’s possible that direct native involvement wouldn’t have made any difference in regards to the temperature of the fans.
While we’re on the subject of drinking, one point worth commending about the hosts is the water refill stations. Signs implore media and fans to “save the world” by using just one plastic bottle all week. Can we adopt this is on the PGA Tour, please?
We’re still on the opening nine and already there have been nine birdies and an eagle. The soft shouts of “Bravo” and “Magnifique” are growing louder. The French cheer for McIlroy is beginning to quicken and morph “Rory” into “Oui” (Yes!). Like a fine wine that’s just been uncorked, the fans are allowing this Ryder Cup to breathe.