September 28, 2012
Team U.S.A. has a lead after the first two sessions of the Ryder Cup for only the second time since 1979. In 2008, they led by 3 points after the alternate shot and better-ball matches. Here in 2012 at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago, the U.S. leads 5-3. For a team that’s used to playing catch-up from the word go in the Ryder Cup, the 2-point lead is a welcome sight.
They came to within a couple of dimples of a 3-point lead on the last hole of the day. Tiger Woods, who struggled early, but finished strong, lipped out a birdie putt on 18 that would have given he and Steve Stricker a half of their match. Instead, Nicolas Colsaerts and his veteran teammate Lee Westwood picked up an important point for Team Europe. Westwood let out a sigh of relief as Tiger’s putt bounced off the lip of the cup and trickled away.
For all of his brilliance, Woods has never gotten the hang out of the Ryder Cup. He has 14 points from 29 matches which is not terrible, but not up to the standards of the 14-time major winner.
When asked about the successes of the Euros, Woods said, “Well, certainly, I am responsible for that because I didn’t earn the points that I was put out there for. I believe I was out there for five sessions each time and didn’t go 5-0 for our side. So I certainly am a part of that and that’s part of being a team. I needed to go and get points for my team and didn’t do it.”
“Hopefully I can do that this week,” Tiger continued, “hopefully the other guys do the same and we can get this thing rolling.”
And get rolling they did. They played as a team, much like the Euros have always done in the Ryder Cup. In particular, the team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley evoked memories of European teams of the past, such as Seve Ballasteros and Jose Maria Olazabol (this year’s captain of the European team), and Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik.
Mickelson and Bradley displayed true chemistry. Bradley credited Mickelson for being a mentor. Mickelson credited Bradley for for pumping him up. They were truly a perfect combination on day one of the 2012 Ryder Cup.
The Americans’ enthusiasm was emphasized by Bubba Watson’s Happy Gilmoresque request that the home crowd cheer while he hit his opening tee shot. Bubba responded by drilling the ball right down the middle with his hot-pink driver.
As always, the matches were not without controversy. On the par-3 second, in the foursomes format, Rory McIlroy hit his tee shot right of the green and it landed near a sprinkler head. His partner, Graeme McDowell, requested relief, but American countered. Furyk told McIlroy that he had to disagree with McIlroy’s request.
The controversy seemed to ignite McIlroy and McDowell, as they went on to beat Furyk and Brandt Snedeker 1 up.
Meanwhile, Colsaerts opened some eyes in the the afternoon session, pouring in 8 birdies and an eagle en route to the 1 up victory over Woods and Stricker. The 30 year-old Belgian was relatively unknown to American golf fans before this week, but he has their attention now.
Understated U.S. captain Davis Love III has his charges playing well. On the night Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones was honored at Turner Field, Love invoked the Braves third baseman in an interview with the Golf Channel.
“I was looking at it like Chipper Jones said all the time – you just want to win each series.”
With two more days to go, the matches are still wide open. But for once, the U.S. doesn’t have to play from behind. They have the advantage heading into the weekend.