By Mark Lamport-Stokes
MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - The sound of silence has become a holy grail at the Ryder Cup for visiting teams who thrive on being able to hush raucous home crowds with timely birdie putts.
This week will be no different at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago as holders Europe seek to triumph on American soil where the U.S. have lost only three times since the biennial matches began in 1927.
"The crowd will still ultimately be very pro the American team and we expect that," Britain's former world number one Luke Donald, who has lived in Chicago for the last 15 years, told reporters on Wednesday.
"They are going to be loud. They are going to be raucous. The biggest advantage in a Ryder Cup is having that home support, the cheering, the loud chants, the crowd getting behind your team.
"If we can take that away a little bit, not just through my relationship with Chicago, but also by playing well, then that will be a slight benefactor for us."
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who is playing in his third Ryder Cup this week, agreed.
"There's no doubt, there's a world of difference between playing in front of your home fans and playing in front of the U.S. fans," said McDowell, who first represented Europe at Valhalla in Kentucky in 2008.
"You know, putts that drop in front of your home fans are like a bomb going off and putts that go in this weekend will be like someone's got the silencer on. It's kind of a muted applause."
McDowell vividly recalls the par-three 14th hole at Valhalla which was surrounded by large spectator mounds to create an amphitheatre atmosphere where the cheers by the home crowd became deafening.
The Northern Irishman expects Medinah's par-three 17th, where the green hugs the edge of Lake Kadijah, to provide a similar setting of raucous support this week for the U.S. fans.
"The 14th at Valhalla was one of the most intimidating holes as a European," McDowell said. "You knew when somebody birdied 14; you could hear it reverberating around the golf course.
"I think 17 is going to have that same effect this week by the sound of things. It's going to be very interesting to see."
Around 40,000 fans are expected at Medinah for each of the three days of competition and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal is preparing his players to embrace the noise in Friday's opening foursomes matches.
"The crowds are going to be huge," the Spaniard, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups as a player, said after his team had completed nine holes of practice on Wednesday. "You can see that in the crowds today.
"They were already just dropping a few 'USAs' here and there and stuff like that. I think Friday morning is going to be amazing.
"There will be a guy jumping up and down and celebrating on the third hole Friday morning. It's going to be that kind of passion, and you have to prepare them. They need to soak it all in."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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