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Ryder Cup: McIlroy's joy - Selfies rule OK

By Chris Murphy, CNN
updated 7:18 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy is a big fan of Twitter and regularly posts selfies to his two million followers. Thanks to the reversing of a ban on uploading photos to social media during the Ryder Cup, golf's world No. 1 can tweet as many selfies as he wants. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy is a big fan of Twitter and regularly posts selfies to his two million followers. Thanks to the reversing of a ban on uploading photos to social media during the Ryder Cup, golf's world No. 1 can tweet as many selfies as he wants.
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Selfies allowed
Phoning it in
Check this out
Watson's world
Say cheese
Talking with Tiger
Checking in
Role models
Victory selfie
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ryder Cup organizers encourage selfies and sharing via social media at event
  • Reports had said there would be a ban on uploading photographs via social media
  • Rory McIlroy among many players who attract big following on Twitter and Facebook
  • Ultrafast wifi also on offer but restrictions in place to avoid disruption to players

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(CNN) -- Rory McIlroy loves making birdies, but he's partial to the odd selfie too.

And thanks to a late change of heart from Ryder Cup organizers, golf's world No. 1 can tweet to his heart's content at this week's transatlantic tussle between Europe and the United States.

A ban on uploading pictures via social media during the tournament in Scotland has been reversed, which will no doubt please four-time major champion McIlroy and his 2.1 million-strong Twitter following.

This pro-selfie stance reflects a growing shift in attitude from golf's authorities, with the 2014 Ryder Cup set to be the most socially connected in the team competition's 87-year history.

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"Selfies are positively encouraged and I expect to see plenty of them," says its match director Edward Kitson. "We want people to share their stories online and feel part of the Ryder Cup."

This commitment to sharing will also embrace ultrafast 4G wireless connection and radio frequency wristbands that allow fans to indulge in activities around the course and post their experiences to social media instantly.

And while there are rules in place to minimize disruption to play, it is all a far cry from a six-year period between 2007 and 2012 when mobile phones were banned from the British Open after complaints from players.

Sport has grown into one of the biggest draws on Twitter and Facebook, and a strong social media presence is now essential for any self-respecting major event.

"There's now an expectation among fans that their experience will include social media in some way," Caroline Cheese told CNN from the offices of UK-based LiveWire Sport, which counts the English Premier League and broadcaster Channel 4 among its clients.

"Events now see social strategy as a crucial part of the planning process -- not just a luxury add-on or afterthought.

"It doesn't just start when the event kicks off either. Events can start connecting with their fans months ahead, building a buzz, offering exclusive competitions and, in doing so, creating a loyal fanbase."

Even those fans who are in the stands at a sporting event are developing an appetite for in-game interaction.

Thanks to reliable wifi across Hoylake's links at this year's British Open, many fans were able to watch the action right in front of them as well as follow TV coverage on a tablet or mobile phone.

The concept of "second-screening" -- watching TV with a mobile, laptop or tablet to hand -- has become the norm in recent years thanks to the explosion in social media.

Now clubs, and brands, are cottoning on to the opportunity it presents.

Scottish football champion Celtic has earned plaudits for its in-stadium wifi network and dedicated matchday app -- only the second of its kind in Europe.

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The app provides text commentary, stats, images and interactive polls during a game, while pulling in the best of social media. It also encourages fans vote for a sponsor's man of the match.

"If you think about it, it is totally natural. You check your phone however many times a day, if you are at a live sporting event of course you want to do that," Niall Coen, managing director of Snack Media, the digital content wing of the app's developer, Sports Revolution, told CNN.

"It's human nature -- everyone wants to talk about the great goal they saw go in, or debate whether that was a red card or a penalty.

"When you see something that's important to you, you want to share with like-minded people around you and that's the basic premise of a lot of these social media business, not just sport.

"Part of the project at Celtic, and part of its success, is being able to fill that gap because when you have huge numbers of people together in one place you don't have the coverage and connectivity."

Future plans for the app include an ability for fans to buy tickets for matches or order food and drink to pick up during halftime.

And as sport's social presence continues to evolve and technology gets better, Coen thinks it won't be long before event rights-holders themselves get in on the action.

"The likes of Twitter and Facebook are quite open about fact that sport is one of the biggest interests amongst their users," Coen added.

"One way it might go is some of the top rights-holders in sports and football might club together and do their own channel.

"Or maybe Twitter and Facebook could enhance their offering, with VIP areas that include a stream about a particular event, where you have all the very best commentators."

United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has picked Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan as his three wildcards for the biennial team battle with Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland later this month. United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has picked Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan as his three wildcards for the biennial team battle with Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland later this month.
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Watson\'s Ryder Cup wildcard picks Watson's Ryder Cup wildcard picks
 Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts of Europe celebrate after winning the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club in 2012 following a dramatic 14½ - 13½ victory. Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts of Europe celebrate after winning the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club in 2012 following a dramatic 14½ - 13½ victory.
Miracle of Medinah
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Ryder Cup wildcard picks Ryder Cup wildcard picks
Television personalities Kim Kardashian and Willie Geist take a selfie during "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Television personalities Kim Kardashian and Willie Geist take a selfie during "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Celebs taking selfies
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Celebs taking selfies Celebs taking selfies

The recent World Cup underlined what an important accoutrement social media is for any global sporting event.

A total of 672 million tweets relating to the football showpiece were sent during the tournament in Brazil -- a new record according to Twitter.

The 35.6 million tweets sent during Brazil's humiliating 7-1 defeat to eventual winner Germany was the most sent during a single sporting event.

And it shows that whether inside the stadium or not, the online debate around the game is growing ever larger.

"Fans aren't passive anymore, they want to feel part of the event and social is crucial in that," Cheese explained.

"It allows events to deliver behind-the-scenes content, competitions, hashtag initiatives to allow fans to connect with each other and to the event itself.

"Perhaps its most crucial role -- especially for really big events -- is in bringing together a global audience.

"For example, the Premier League -- and many of its clubs -- engages directly with its millions of fans in China via channels like Sina Weibo.

"The big match might be taking place in Manchester but its reach is way, way bigger than that."

Read: 'I'm just a wife, but I'm treated like a star'

Read: Why Tom Watson battles with Twitter

Read: Do you love Team USA this much?

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