Guys named Sully and Fitz lined the fairways and greens of the 140-year-old club during practice rounds, ready to greet their least favorite golfers with the same welcome their ancestors gave the Redcoats in Lexington and Concord.
“It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said reigning US Open champion Jon Rahm, who has stuck with the PGA Tour and avoided the biggest guaranteed salaries offered by LIV Golf.
“There hasn’t been a US Open here for a very long time, so they’re craving it, and you can tell that,” Rahm said. “It almost seems like with what’s going on in the world of golf, they almost want to show their presence even more. I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I’m really looking forward to it.
More hesitant was Phil Mickleson, a six-time Major champion who is the biggest name among LIV XIV. He said in February there was something “scary (expletive)” about the Saudi regime funding the new tour, but he still took $200 million to play it.
One of the most popular players in the world, Mickelson said on Monday he wasn’t sure his supporters would give up on him.
Just in case, he buttered the locals up like a Parker House bun.
“Boston’s crowds are some of the best in the sport,” Mickelson said during a 25-minute press briefing after arriving in this Boston suburb from last week’s LIV event outside London.
“I think their enthusiasm and energy is what creates such a great atmosphere,” he said. “So whether it’s positive or negative towards me directly, I think it’s going to create an incredible atmosphere to organize this championship.”
Golf is usually the most genteel sport, with its hushed greenside whispers and polite, muffled applause. It is rude to talk during a player’s swing; cheering on a rival’s misfire just isn’t done.
Sill, there are exceptions.
The Phoenix Open is a beer-based party that wouldn’t be out of place in the stands at Yankee Stadium. And here at the Country Club, the 1999 Ryder Cup erupted into a hustle and bustle that lives on as ‘The Battle of Brookline’.
At the biennial competition between golfers from the United States and a team from Europe, Scottish pasty Colin Montgomerie has been relentlessly called out for his resemblance to Robin Williams’ Drag movie character Mrs. Doubtfire (as well as the former New England Patriots coach Bill Parcells, nicknamed “Thon”).
Some of the sport’s other niceties were also ignored, including the American celebration after Justin Leonard’s Cup birdie on the 17th green – before José María Olazábal had a chance to clear. The Europeans fulminate.
But those antics were mild compared to what other visiting athletes have experienced in Boston.
Yankees shortstop Bucky Dent has acquired a new middle name — it rhymes with “Bucky” — for the crime of hitting a home run against the Red Sox. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving had a water bottle thrown after a postseason game; he had the nerve to leave the Celtics after professing his love for the city.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was hidden when the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl banner was raised in 2017 for fear it would spark fan anger over his decision to suspend the quarterback -back Tom Brady for his role in the Deflategate cheating saga.
And just last week, Celtics fans greeted Golden State Warriors antagonist and NBA Finals opponent Draymond Green with a vulgar chant. (It also rhymed, unimaginatively, with “Bucky.”)
“Chic. Very classy,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was heckled by a Duck Boat driver – albeit amiably – while strolling through the city.
“It’s just that Boston is Boston,” the Boston Globe explained Wednesday in a deep dive into the characteristic cold shoulder city sports enthusiasts. “Rude gestures are just how we say ‘hi’ here.”
Crowds for the US Open were heavy but held up well earlier in the week as golfers played their practice rounds. Two grizzled women discussed their bridge matches online while waiting to cross the 18th fairway. Men wearing golf shirts from their home clubs discussed business or their latest round.
Mickelson had a handful of police walking with him on Tuesday – not unusual for one of the biggest names in the sport, although they appeared to be on higher alert than usual. They only heard cheers as their protege circled the course.
“Good thing, Phil!” shouted Kameron Luthea, a man from Cumberland, Rhode Island, who watched Mickelson leave on No. 6 on Tuesday. “Boston loves you, Phil!” »
Luthea said he became a Mickelson fan because they were both left-handed. Asked if he was troubled by the connection to the repressive Saudi regime, Luthea cautiously replied, “I support Phil and his golf game.”
“I like the way he plays,” Luthea said. “He’s here to win it. He is not scared.
In fact, Mickelson may have nothing to worry about this week other than the punishing layout of the Country Club. San Diegan, 51, who turns 52 on Thursday, has won every major tournament except the US Open, which bills itself as “the toughest test in golf”, finishing second a record six times.
“Don’t kill Boston fans,” Larry Costello, a resident of nearby West Roxbury, told a reporter after Mickelson came to the gallery to greet an acquaintance. Fans took selfies and held out their hands with items for the golfer to sign before heading to the fairway to complete his round.
The gallery followed, but not before Luthea had a final thought:
“To hell with Kyrie,” he shouted at a reporter. “You can throw that in there.”
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