By Tim Gavrich
Never in my memory was an opening day of a Ryder Cup so thoroughly dominated by a rookie from each team. For the Americans, who carry a lead of 5-3 going into Saturday’s latter half of team matches, it was Keegan Bradley. Quite simply, Bradley put on one of the best displays of big-time putting in recent memories, holing lengthy putt after lengthy putt and making his partner, Phil Mickelson, look a decade younger. The duo, bound to have at least one encore call tomorrow, beat the formidable pairing of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald in the morning and then drubbed Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in the afternoon.
On the European side, after a decent morning performance, they promptly folded in the afternoon, save for their one first-timer, the Belgian Whopper Nicolas Colsaerts. Colsaerts made eight birdies and an eagle in the afternoon four-ball session, completely carrying his scuffling partner, Lee Westwood, to a 1-up victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who lost twice today. To be fair, though, they were nine under in the afternoon as a team.
7:20 am (all times CT): Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson (USA) vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter (EUR)
The Sultans of Smash, who thumped Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson this afternoon, will try their hand at alternate shot play tomorrow. Captain Love commended Simpson and Watson for whipping the afternoon crowd to a froth and setting the tone for the American side’s successful four-ball session. Poulter will be equally fiery and Rose will be comfortable as well. Still…
7:35 am: Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson (USA) vs. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald (EUR)
Bradley and Mickelson were absolutely unstoppable on Friday. Westwood was a non-factor in his afternoon match, so he should have a chip on his shoulder, as should countryman Donald, who was uninspiring with Garcia Friday morning. It’s somewhat difficult to assume that Keegan and Phil are locks to play great again and likewise, Donald and Westwood are bound to improve. Upset potential here.
7:50 am: Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson (USA) vs. Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia (EUR)
Dufner had a very good debut Friday morning with Johnson, their games complementing one another nicely. There’s little reason for them to regress greatly, but they are up against a team primed for success in Colsaerts, who lit Medinah on fire with his putter Friday afternoon and Garcia, who is not about to lose twice in a row in foursomes, his specialty format.
8:05 am: Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (EUR)
A reprise of Friday morning’s opening match, but this time it’s the morning anchor. Snedeker and Furyk were more than game against the team now known as “The Macs” Friday morning, but a loose 18th hole tee shot by Snedeker doomed the Americans. They will have the opportunity to ride the crowd momentum to a possible upset victory, but it will be another uphill battle.
It would be utter folly to think the Euros won’t be absolutely rabid out of the gates Saturday morning. Captain Olazabal is no fool; Poulter and Rose are the type of team that can silence a boisterous American crowd early if Watson and Simpsonaren’t sharp. Once again, Captain Love should be thrilled with a 2-2 morning score, and even 2 ½-1 ½ in favor of the European side would be acceptable. At any rate, I am well-stocked for snacks and ready to wear a deep impression in the couch tomorrow. I can’t wait.