Darren Clarke may have his work cut out to limit the damage caused by Danny Willett’s brother but the European captain was working hard to do just that last night.
Clarke said yesterday Masters champion and European debutant Willett was “bitterly disappointed” by his brother Peter Willett’s inflammatory article penned for National Club Golfer magazine.
The schoolteacher claimed a share of his brother’s spotlight at this year’s Masters with his amusing tweets and this column, for a magazine circulated to golf clubs throughout the UK, went viral on publication yesterday as word spread of the author’s criticism of American Ryder Cup fans.
“For the Americans to stand a chance of winning, they need their baying mob of imbeciles to caress their egos every step of the way,” Peter Willett wrote.
“Team Europe needs to shut those groupies up.” That was just the start, in the next five paragraphs Willett insulted American golf fans at every turn, referring to them as “pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants”, an “angry, unwashed, Make America Great Again swarm”, and “those fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards”.
And with every word Clarke will be only too aware, he made Europe’s job to retain the Ryder Cup in Minnesota that much harder.
“Listen, I just was made aware of the article about an hour ago. I haven’t seen it. As soon as I did, I went out to find Danny, who was playing in the last group out there this morning,” Clarke said.
“I spoke to Danny about it. I showed it to Danny. And he’s bitterly disappointed in his brother’s article. It is not what Danny thinks. It is not what I think. It is not what Team Europe stands for.
“So Danny was unaware of it, and he fully intends to speak to his brother whenever he comes in and tell him, express his displeasure to his brother about it, because that is not what Team Europe stands for.
“I was obviously very disappointed in it, as well, because that’s an outside person expressing their opinion which is not representative of what our thoughts are.”
Clarke said he hoped spectators at Hazeltine National would understand the comments were not connected with his team.
“I mean, the fans could not have been nicer and better to us this week, and hopefully that continues. And as I say, the article was beyond our control, and you know, Danny is bitterly disappointed himself.
"It’s up to Danny to speak to his brother whenever he comes in and express that. I will let him deal with it between siblings. It’s one of those real disappointing things. But as I say, it’s Danny’s brother’s opinion, not Danny’s or Team Europe’s opinion, so Danny will resolve that.”
American captain Davis Love said he had heard about the article but had chosen not to read it, “I heard about it on the golf course from a friend of mine from NBC, and I took (NFL) coach (Bill) Belichick’s advice, ignored the noise. If I read it, I’m just going to get mad. If I read it, I’m just going to get defensive. So I just try to ignore it.”
There was some good news for Clarke yesterday when Open champion and world number five Henrik Stenson declared himself ready to play all five sessions if required. Stenson has not played competitive golf in a month.
“Potentially it could have been a question of how much golf we can play,” Stenson said. “I mean, nothing is for certain at any point, but as of now, I feel like I’m up for a lot of golf and unless the knee tells me otherwise, that’s the way I approach it.”
Clarke said: “Obviously his knee is giving him a little bit of bother; not as much as what has been reported. Henrik has told me, if I need him five times, he is more than keen and able to play five times.”
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