Rookies step up on first day of Ryder Cup
Fans watch on the 14th hole during a four-ball match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Purchase photo reprints »
MEDINAH, Ill. — The Ryder Cup might be golf’s most pressure-packed stage, but it hardly frightened this bunch.
Four of the five rookies on the U.S. team contributed to the Americans’ 5-3 lead on opening day. And without Nicholas Colsaerts’ one-man show — he made eight birdies and an eagle on his own ball — the Europeans would have been shut out in the afternoon session.
“Well, everybody called them rookies, but they’re proven Tour winners and FedEx Cup winners and guys that have played very, very well lately,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “So we weren’t considering them rookies, except in the Ryder Cup.”
Keegan Bradley looked like an old hand while winning twice with playing partner Phil Mickelson in tow. Only Brandt Snedeker, who opened the day as Jim Furyk’s partner in the first alternate-shot match, came away empty-handed.
“We showed a little nerves this morning right out of the box,” Love said.
Not so for Colsaerts, who made eight birdies and an eagle in his match with Lee Westwood against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
“He had one of those days that he will remember for the rest of his life,” said European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, probably wishing he had another rookie or two to call on.
SERGIO’S FIRST LOSS: Sergio Garcia lost his match and his unbeaten streak.
The Spaniard brought an 8-0-1 mark in foursomes into Friday morning’s match against Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, and he and partner Luke Donald were 4-0 when paired together. But the Europeans fell 4 and 3, losing control of the match on the ninth hole when Donald’s birdie putt lipped out. They fell behind when another putt lipped out on 12, giving them their first bogey of the day, and the Americans won four straight holes to clinch the match.
“We had our chances,” Garcia said. “We had a couple of key holes, 9 and 12 probably, where we had two big lip-outs from Luke. Then they just got on a run of birdies toward the end, and we weren’t able to keep up.”
Garcia has lost three of his last four Ryder Cup matches. He missed the 2010 event, mired in a two-year slump.
“What I’m most disappointed about is that I didn’t get a point or at least half a point for my team,” Garcia said. “I’ve told you over and over again, if you want to talk about records, you probably need to ask the other team. The only record we care about is the team record.”
PLAYING BY THE BOOK: Both European captain Jose Maria Olazabal and his American counterpart, Davis Love III, came into the Ryder Cup with a plan. And both, apparently, are sticking to it.
For Love that means sitting down Tiger Woods for the first time in any Ryder Cup he’s played in. Woods won’t play in Saturday morning’s alternate shot matches, but Love said it had nothing to do with Woods and Steve Stricker losing both their opening matches.
“We just don’t want guys to be worn out,” Love said. “We need Tiger and Steve in the afternoon. We need Tiger and Steve on Sunday.”
Olazabal said his plan was to have every player play during the first day, and for his top players to get rested one session before Sunday’s singles, too. Falling behind 5-3 after the first day didn’t tempt him to change his mind.
“No, we stick to the plan,” Olazabal said. “What we need to do is just step it up and play better golf tomorrow. Simple as that.”
MY BAD: Jim Furyk wasn’t quite sure what he did. Whatever it was, he knew he wasn’t supposed to do it.
Furyk was given a one-stroke penalty on the 10th hole after reporting himself for a rules infraction during his and Brandt Snedeker’s foursomes match against Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe’s top team. Furyk was taking a practice swing on the team’s third shot, and the ball moved ever so slightly.
“I don’t remember what I did, but I think I grounded my club and I at least hovered on the grass,” Furyk said. “It may or may not have changed the competition.”
The Americans bogeyed the hole to go 2 down in the match, and dropped the next hole, too. McIlroy and McDowell eventually won the match, 1 up.
MAKE SOME NOISE: Apparently, Chicagoans like to sleep in, because more than a few golfers talked about how quiet the galleries were early in the day before cranking up the volume.
“Cold, a little windier than we thought,” is how U.S. captain Davis Love III described the early conditions. And a shaky start by the Americans didn’t help matters.
“I think it stunned the fans a little bit,” he added.
But finally the home team put some red numbers on the board, splitting the morning matches at 2-2. Then, with the sun shining bright in the afternoon, the first two U.S. duos rolled out to big leads early Medinah Country Club started rocking.
Zach Johnson was less impressed by the flat Midwestern accent than the pitch.
“There was some bass to them,” he said.
But either way, the cheers sounded familiar to Englishman Luke Donald, who’s lived in Chicago ever since attending nearby Northwestern University on a golf scholarship.
“Loud, raucous,” is how he described it. “About what you expect from a Ryder Cup.”
DRESSED UP: For some in the massive galleries at the Ryder Cup, Friday was dress-up day.
Uncle Sam was a big theme, with some fans wearing stovepipe hats to accessorize the look. Others were draped in American flags, shirts that resembled flags and even red, white and blue pants.
European fans in particular seemed to want to wear something distinctive, like the five who sat together in the grandstand just off the 18th green dressed as European flags in yellow and blue and cheering loudly. A number of fans wore blue wigs and yellow body paint.
Two others were dressed like bullfighters, complete with capes that resembled the flags of Spain, and matador hats.
That prompted some chuckles from more traditionally dressed fans on the 16th fairway as they walked by.
“I wish I had taken more time to think about my outfit,” one said to another.