Heckler humbles Swedish golf champion with perfect putt
AFP/The Local · 30 Sep 2016, 10:20
Published: 30 Sep 2016 10:20 GMT+02:00
US spectator David Johnson never imagined when he got tickets to Thursday's final practice round for the Ryder Cup that he would strike the first blow for America against Europe.
But that's exactly what he did at Hazeltine after being invited from behind the ropes and onto the sixth green, sinking a 12-foot putt that had baffled Europe stars Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy.
Sweden's Stenson, the reigning British Open champion, and Northern Ireland's McIlroy, coming off a victory at last week's US PGA season-ending Tour Championship, each missed the tricky putt multiple times.
That's when Johnson, from North Dakota, yelled to the players that even he could sink that putt.
Stenson decided to give him the chance, pulling him onto the green and handing him a putter.
Adding to the fun and tension of the moment, Olympic champion Justin Rose of England put a $100 bill onto the green just on the other side of the ball. Rose said if he made the putt on the first try, he could have the money.
So Johnson waited over the putt for several seconds and then smacked it hard and true, the ball dropping into the cup to spark a roar from the crowd and the Ryder Cup players.
Johnson pumped his right fist in celebration then ran around the green, both arms raised in a victory dance for the ages.
He then returned to greet Stenson, Rose and McIlroy, exchanging high-five hand slaps and hugs with each.
"Someone in the crowd yelled, 'I could have made that,' so we let him have a go," Stenson said.
"All credit to him – Rosie put 100 dollars down and the guy drilled it in the center.
"He would have been chipping if it didn't go in, but all credit to him for making it."
"I thought it might make it a bit more real for him, but clearly not," Rose said.
"The boys were cupping out, missing it low and this guy just got the ball out and ripped it into the middle,"
"Fair play to him and he celebrated in style."
For European players, it was a nice moment to share with American golf fans in the wake of a controversy over Europe Ryder Cup player Danny Willett's brother penning an insulting internet article about US golf fans.
"It's fun. We are doing what we should be doing out here, having fun," Rose said. "We are preparing. We are focusing. But you have to enjoy it. That's how you get the most out of it."
England's Andy Sullivan, another Ryder Cup newcomer, was also in the practice foursome and was the first to miss the difficult putt.
Swedish golfer Stenson has proven that life really does begin at 40 this year. In July, he won his first ever major when he claimed the British Open crown, before going on to take an Olympic silver medal a month later in Rio.