Friday's Birdies And Bogeys
September 27, 2012
Birdie: Nicolas Colsaerts
One of Jose Maria Olazabal's two captain's picks, the Belgian entered these matches as the most obscure of the 24 competitors. About all the casual fan knew of Colsaerts coming in is how long he is off the tee. However, it was his putter that shined on Friday afternoon. The 29-year-old teamed up with Lee Westwood to knock off Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, 1 up, in his first-ever Ryder Cup match. His eight birdies and an eagle are even more impressive when you factor in his partner being a complete non-factor. But maybe we should have expected this. Colsaerts' one European Tour win this year came at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where he defeated Graeme McDowell in the final.
Birdie: Keegan Bradley
We had a feeling the ultra-intense Bradley would take to the Ryder Cupstage, and it looks like we were right. Bradley piped his opening tee shot down the first fairway Friday morning, ripped his tee out of the ground and never looked back. With the 2011 PGA champion rolling in a succession of clutch putts, he and partner Phil Mickelson scored the first point for the U.S. when they took down the formidable pair of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia (the two were 4-0 together in foursomes play; Garcia was 8-0-1 in the format overall). If that wasn't impressive enough, Bradley and Mickelson went on to upend Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in the afternoon four-ball, making at least one pairing for Davis Love on Saturday a no-brainer.
Bogey: Davis Love III
The U.S. captain had struck all the right notes leading into the start of play, but when faced with his first real test Friday morning, he cowered. With Tiger Woods clearly struggling alongside Steve Stricker in the morning foursomes, Love could have made the bold decision to sit the 14-time major champion in the afternoon -- especially given the strong start by the U.S. pair of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Instead, Love predictably stuck with Woods, who played much better in the afternoon, but still came away from the day without a point.
Birdie: Davis Love III
Then again, there's only so much blame you can pile on a captain whose team performed as well as Love's did on Friday. While Woods and Stricker went on to lose again in the afternoon, that was more a reflection of the unconscious play of Nicolas Colsaerts, who was 10 under on his own ball. Otherwise, Love appears to have his team in a loose mindset, and his decision to set up the golf course for birdies tilted in the favor of the aggressive Americans. And by day's end, Love built up the courage to tell Woods that he'd be sitting out Saturday's foursomes, marking the first time he's been benched in his career.
Bogey: Slow Play
We get it. Every shot/putt matters in the Ryder Cup. But perhaps in part because of the ordinate number of rulings required on Friday, play moved at a crawl, with the Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker group put on the clock on at least two separate occasions. So if you're playing slow AND losing, maybe it's time to consider picking it up.
Birdie: Team USA bonding
The Europeans' recent success in this biennial event has been credited in part to what a tightly-knit unit they are. On Friday, it was hard to argue that Team USA wasn't just as -- if not more -- chummy. There were the usual high-fives and fist bumps, but how about the chest bumps and even some, um, love taps on the butt? OK, so those last two things came mainly from the "bromance" between Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, but you get the point. This American bunch seems to get along really well -- and it's not hurting them on the scoreboard, either.
Bogey: Tiger's tee shots
Woods didn't set a good tone for his anchor match of the morning with a snap hook left. A few holes later, he hit one way right off a cart path that ended up bouncing in front of a grandstand. On another hole. Tiger's best result off the tee Friday morning came on the short, par-4 15th when he yanked another 3-wood, but this time, it caromed off a tree and almost onto the front of the green. The afternoon went much better, but the inconsistency with his longer clubs make him a liability in foursomes.
Birdie: Ryder Cup acrimony
The Ryder Cup doesn't really begin until one side royally ticks off the other. On Friday, that moment was on the second hole when Graeme McDowell asked for relief from a sprinkler head and Jim Furyk sought the second opinion of a rules official. The official sided with the Americans, which didn't go over well with McDowell and partner Rory McIlroy. Whether it served as extra motivation for the Europeans in their 1-up win is open for debate. But the moment at least established a tone for the week.
We'll spare the network's commentators like Mike Tirico (left) and Curtis Strange -- at least, for now. But would it have killed the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" to show more than two shots in between commercial breaks during the Friday's morning session? Granted, some of the lack of action was due to drop-related rulings, but it's never a good sign when you feel like you're seeing more of "Papa John" selling pizzas than Zach Johnson and his teammates.
Birdie: 2012 Major champions
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson sat out the morning foursomes, but they didn't waste anytime making their mark in the afternoon matches. Paired together, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champs birdied seven of their first nine holes and cruised to a 5-and-4 win over Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie. On the European side, recent PGA champ Rory McIlroy fell victim to the Keegan Bradley-Phil Mickelson buzzsaw in the afternoon, but he did pick up an important point in the morning with partner Graeme McDowell thanks to a clutch bunker shot on the final hole.