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Ryder Cup tees off in Medinah, Illinois Friday, boosts local economy

Friday, September 28, 2012

Huge crowds have gathered in Medina for the Ryder Cup, one of the biggest golfing events in the world.

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson birdied their first hole and never looked back.

The winners of the year's first two majors earned the first U.S. point in fourballs Friday with a 5-and-4 victory over Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, and the Americans were poised to add a few more to the lead before the afternoon was done. They had multi-hole leads in two other fourball matches.

The only source of trouble was Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker - again.

Watson and Simpson birdied seven of their first eight holes, and their lone par - on No. 2 - was still good enough to win the hole. When Watson made putts from inside 8 feet for birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8, the question wasn't if they'd win, but whether if they'd do it in record fashion. They did not, and the Europeans actually won a hole on Lawrie's 5-footer on 11.

But that only delayed the inevitable. On the green in two on the par-5 14th, Watson needed only to two-putt from 45 feet to end the match. He got close enough on the first try, and the Europeans conceded the putt.

Golfers teed off at 7:20 a.m. Friday morning, and there was an audience waiting. Most fans have been holding on to their Ryder Cup tickets for a year now!

Before the sun came up, fans from around the world lined up to watch the golf "all-stars" It's the U.S. versus Europe. The 2012 Ryder Cup -- it's known as the Olympics of the golf world.

"It's an opportunity to get out and socialize," said Tracy Hickenbottom, from New York City. "And especially because this is the Ryder Cup, you get the opportunity to cheer on your favorite team."

"We had probably 10 people put in for the raffle, and only one of us got it, so we're all here now," said Michael Vanacker, of Chicago.

But the lottery pool to buy tickets is over. The tournament is now sold out.

It was a whole lot easier for some attendees from Scotland. Jim McCallum received complimentary tickets as a member of the PGA.

"It's been one of those lifetime ambitions...that I've managed to fulfill ," said McCallum.

"We're staying downtown, in the Hyatt Regency, on the waterfront, East Wacker, it's been great," said Stuart McCallum.

Chicago hotels are full of fans and many are spending money in the Medinah area. It's estimated that $130 million or more will be pumped into the local economy.

ABC7 found tournament attendees Friday from London to Memphis.

At Thursday's opening ceremonies at the Medinah Country Club, Justin Timberlake emceed as Tiger Woods and other players entered in matching suits.

This is the first time the Ryder Cup has been held in Illinois, so, yes, this is a pretty big deal.

"When it gets down to it, who knows when this is gonna happen again?" said Illinois PGA President Casey Brozek. "And the Ryder Cup is every four years in the U.S., and the golf fans are going nuts here in Chicago. This morning, with the first tee excitement, it was overwhelming."

Forty-five-thousand people are expected to in the Medinah area every day through Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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