CHASKA, Minn. - Mark James played in the Ryder Cup seven times and captained the European side at Brookline in 1999. Here, the honorary life member of the European Tour gives his views on the 41st edition of the competition in the first of his columns on the contest in Minnesota.
Danny Willett's brother should be ashamed of himself today after the absolutely horrible comments he made about fans of America's Ryder Cup team.
I don't know how much time Pete Willett has spent in the U.S., but the crowds here are not so different to the ones in Britain. They're just a bit louder.
Reading what he had published appalled me, and to do what he has was simply madness. Even if you think what he appeared to, which would be utterly ridiculous, it was insane to say it a couple of days before his brother and 11 teammates are to compete against the American team.
I can't help but feel sorry for Darren Clarke, and I hope that Danny is not singled out by the crowd as a result of the comments -- they were certainly inviting that.
Having someone say such stupid things was the last thing anybody needed -- and was just the sort of curveball a captain dreads.
At the very least, the comments were an embarrassment for Danny, but they could have consequences for the team as a whole. If you get on the wrong side of the fans in the Ryder Cup it definitely has an impact.
The blog emerged a couple of days before the start of the matches, too, which is plenty of time for ripostes to start flying about and feelings to get very heated.
The last thing we want is for things to turn unpleasant at Hazeltine. They haven't at the Ryder Cup since I was captain, at Brookline, but these sort of comments don't help.
I hope there won't be a repeat of those infamous 1999 scenes. In the editions since they have improved security and thrown out the odd person who has caused a problem, but if you rile people so much that large groups are having a go at the players, you can't eject them all.
At Brookline, I made it very clear to the European players at the start of the week that the crowds there could be volatile. I told them to sign every autograph and be really nice to the fans. It didn't do us any good but I think Darren -- who's said how good the U.S. fans have been to the European team up until the comments -- will have been thinking along similar lines.
The Pete Willett furore was really bad news for Clarke, and everybody -- players and caddies -- is going to have to be extremely careful what they say now. It's vital they do everything they can to try to stay on the right side of the supporters and opposing players.
If I was in Darren's position I'd be on a charm offensive on every front, really stepping up that side of things.
Have Pete Willett's comments wrecked Europe's chances? I wouldn't go as far as to say that. It'll still be a competitive match, but you just don't need these sort of things going on.
It was going to be hard enough already. Any team with six rookies in it was going to face some serious questions. The first day-and-a-half had looked set to be a bit hairy for Team Europe before that ridiculous blog.
The pressure that players making their Ryder Cup debuts feel is great enough, but Pete Willett's comments can only add to it -- and his brother is one of the new boys.
The Americans look really strong, too. Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth are both brilliant players and will be key to their prospects. They both have presence and charisma, and the benefits of youth. Davis Love III will be hoping they spearhead the team.
But it could be a bit hairy for Europe for the first day-and-a-half and they need to hang in there and find their feet. If they can then adapt, and play with the team's usual heart and instinct, they could start to apply pressure on Saturday afternoon and then in the singles.
It should be a fascinating contest -- we just have to hope it is the play we end up talking about, not the fans and some stupid comments from someone outside the team.
Mark James was talking to Leo Spall