Golf-'Say cheese', Europeans court Packers fans at Ryder Cup

Golf - The 2020 Ryder Cup - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S. - September 22, 2021 Team Europe's Ian Poulter, Team Europe's Rory McIlroy, Team Europe vice captain Luke Donald wearing cheese hats as they walk to the 1st tee during a practice round as Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington looks on REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) -If you want to get on the right side of Wisconsin locals you can do two things -- dress like you are a Green Bay Packers supporter and wear a giant slice of foam cheese on your head.

The European Ryder Cup team did both on Wednesday as they launched a charm offensive at Whistling Straits before facing the hostile U.S. home crowd when play begins on Friday in the biennial event.

Wearing green-and-yellow striped outfits, the 12-man European squad looked like they were getting ready to run out on to Lambeau Field, home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, as much as get in some practice on the links style layout.

To complete the look, the Europeans donned huge foam wedges of orange cheese before lining up for a team photo to the delight of spectators who screamed their approval.

"When we were doing the clothing they were talking about maybe bringing some Irish colours in for me," said European captain Padraig Harrington. "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.

"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.

"Obviously, business starts on Friday, but at the moment the players are enjoying it and having a good time of it."

Certainly the Europeans do not expect the same reception when play gets underway.

Back on American soil for the first time in five years and with COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, the usual army of European fans will be absent from Whistling Straits, leaving Harrington's 12-man team to face a super-charged atmosphere over the three days of competition.

"The U.S. fans have been brilliant to far, they really have," said European stalwart Ian Poulter, who will be playing in his seventh Ryder Cup. "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."

Without their usual crowd support, Tommy Fleetwood said the Europeans would lean on each other to make the right atmosphere.

"I think we create it ourselves and we do it with each other," said Fleetwood. "Of course, this is a different challenge, different atmosphere for us.

"Even though it's not my first Ryder Cup, it's my first one in America. I'm still excited by the challenge and what an away crowd for us brings to it, and maybe the advantage that the Americans have."

(Reporting by Steve Keating, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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