Saturday's Birdies and Bogeys
September 26, 2014
Birdie: Paul McGinley
It is an unavoidable reality of a Ryder Cup captaincy that if you juggle your lineup and the team doesn't perform, you're a dunce. But if it works? You're a genius. McGinley's playing record may be far inferior to his counterpart Tom Watson's, but he's pushed more correct buttons this week. Whether it was in benching players who have come back to perform, moving Rory McIlroy around to find the right pairing, or even articulating his difficult decision to sit down a red-hot Henrik Stenson, McGinley has performed in all the ways a captain is judged.
Bogey: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley sitting
Remember in 2012 when this dynamic duo only played three matches together and people went nuts? Well, this year, we're only going to see the butt-slapping buddies play twice. Cue the "How is that possible?!" reactions. Perhaps, it's unfair to criticize Tom Watson after the fact for his decision to stick with a hot morning lineup, but the U.S. seemed to lack a spark in the afternoon that these two have been known to provide. On the bright side, they should have plenty of energy on Sunday.
Birdie: Rory McIlroy
After escaping a difficult opening day, McIlroy was a vital part of Europe's successful Saturday -- whether it was a sublime pitch out of the rough to ensure a morning halve, or a series of towering iron approaches in his afternoon foursomes win alongside Sergio Garcia. It's unreasonable to expect Europe's best player to replicate his stroke play dominance. But when he's able to carry his weight, that goes a long way.
Bogey: Rickie Fowler
Unless he wins his singles match on Sunday, Fowler will have played in eight Ryder Cup matches without a victory. He relied on Jimmy Walker for 12 of the 18 holes during his Saturday four-ball match, which ended in a halve after Fowler left his eagle putt on the final hole short, and the two were trounced 5 and 4 later that day by Dubuisson and McDowell. If Fowler wants to be judged by his performances at the highest level, as he's said, it's been a disappointing Ryder Cup so far for a man who will end up playing all five matches.
Birdie: Morning four-balls
Officials who were forced to slow the greens down Friday due to wind took the brakes off Saturday given the better conditions, and both teams kicked things into gear at Gleneagles. Players in the four morning four-ball matches combined to make 63 birdies. It's four-balls, so you're supposed to play aggressively, but on Friday players managed only 29 birdies in the same session. The aggregate score in Saturday's four matches was 63 under par (compared to 27 Friday), led by Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson's record-setting 21 under showing. Gleneagles isn't a pushover, but it was smartly set up to allow the players to thrive even under Ryder Cup pressure.
Bogey: U.S. in Foursomes
On Friday the U.S. took the early lead, then lost the lead in the afternoon. On Saturday, they at least cut into the European lead, then were steamrolled in the afternoon. Are you detecting a trend? Assuming the Americans fall short of a Brookline-like comeback, Tom Watson's team can point to a hapless showing in foursomes, where the Americans failed to win a single match en route to going 0-6-2. Whether that speaks to a discomfort with the format, a lack of partner chemistry, or just a statistical oddity is open for debate. But let's all agree it's something that needs to be rectified in time for the next Ryder Cup in two years.
Birdie: Justin Rose
In two previous Ryder Cup starts, the Englishman already demonstrated he had the quality part down when it came to making birdie putts. Saturday, he showed he could do quantity, too. As partner Henrik Stenson made five birdies in morning four-balls, Rose carded seven of his own, the duo breaking a Ryder Cup scoring record in four-balls (21 under) to beat Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, 3 and 2. Rose didn't use up all his birdies in the morning, as he rolled in a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th while playing with Martin Kaymer in the afternoon foursomes to grab one more half-point for Europe and improve his record to 3-0-1 this week.
Bogey: Matt Kuchar
After losing his only match on Friday -- a chunked chip on No. 18 didn't help -- Kuchar had to be as antsy as any American player to redeem himself on Saturday. It didn't happen. The ninth-ranked player in the world performed much better on Day 2, but he lost both of his matches to fall to 0-3 for the week. For an American team that's lighter than usual on star power, Kuchar was supposed to be an important cog. Instead, it looks like the U.S. Ryder Cup teams he's been a part of in his career will also fall to 0-3.
Birdie: Victor Dubuisson
Credit to Graeme McDowell, because he seems to have Victor Dubuisson -- a self-confessed loner -- firing on all cylinders. After cruising to a 3-and-2 victory over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on Friday, Dubuisson went pin seeking during Saturday's foursomes, hitting a series of fantastic iron shots that led to five birdies in his first eight holes and a 5-and-4 victory over Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. "I really believe he is Europe's next superstar," said McDowell a day earlier. Dubuisson certainly lived up to that billing on Saturday.
Birdie: Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth
It was disappointing to see Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed halve their foursomes match, but the youngest pairing in Ryder Cup history remain one of the few bright spots on the American team. They followed their 5-and-4 four-ball victory on Friday with a 5-and-3 rout on Saturday, and even after Patrick Reed's short missed putt on the 16th hole, they recovered by winning their next hole. They would eventually settle for a half point -- the only one of the session. If the U.S. wants to turn around this 10-6 deficit on Sunday, they need the rest of the team to follow the lead of the two rookies.
Bogey: Henrik Stenson's Back
About the only thing that's gone wrong this week for Team Europe is the Swedish star's back tightening up on Saturday morning. Of course, it was hard to tell given that he contributed five of the 12 birdies he and Justin Rose combined for during their record-breaking performance. Unfortunately for captain Paul McGinley, he had to split up his most successful -- and only 3-0 pairing -- this week and Rose was only able to manage a halve playing with Martin Kaymer. Yeah, we know, we're really stretching to find a negative about Europe's performance at Gleneagles thus far.
Birdie: Jaime Donaldson
The least-heralded of the 24 players in Scotland lost in the morning, but bounced back to help win the first foursomes match of the afternoon and swing the momentum back in Europe's favor. Donaldson hit two clutch pitch shots on 16 and 17 to close out the match and give him a second victory in three tries with partner Lee Westwood. The Ryder Cup rookie from Wales turns 39 next month, but he's one day away from being a part of the biggest celebration of his life.