Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ryder Cup: Day One Wrap-Up

The good news for American golf fans is that our younger players did very well today.  The bad news is that we still have a lot of the old players who have been losing to Europe for years.  Here were today's results:

Morning Alternate-Shot Matches (U.S. team listed first):

Furyk/Snedeker v. McIlroy/McDowell 1UP
4 & 3 Mickelson/Bradley v. Donald/Garcia
3 & 2 Dufner/Z. Johnson v. Westwood/Molinari
Stricker/Woods v. Poulter/Rose 2 & 1

Score after the morning:  United States 2 - 2 Europe

The old guys -- Furyk, Mickelson, Woods, and Stricker -- didn't play all that well, but the younger guys, especially Keegan Bradley, did a great job of coming from behind to pull out two huge points.  This was the first time Donald or Garcia had ever been beaten in an alternate-shot match at the Ryder Cup.

Afternoon Best-Ball Matches (U.S. team listed first):

5 & 4 Watson/Simpson v. Lawrie/Hanson
2 & 1 Mickelson/Bradley v. McIlroy/McDowell
Woods/Stricker v. Westwood/Colsarts 1 UP
3 & 2 D. Johnson/Kuchar v. Rose/Kaymer

Score after the afternoon:  United States 5 - 3 Europe

I was unhappy that the Mickelson/Bradley team was going up against the two Ulstermen, because I just didn't think any of our teams could beat them.  But Bradley was again unbelievable -- he started with three birdies in a row to give his team a 3-up lead, and he kept making enough birdies (with a little help from Phil) to hold off the Macs the rest of the way.

I hated seeing the Woods/Stricker pairing again after their poor performance in the morning.  But Tiger actually played quite well.  The reason he lost was that Nicholas Colsaerts made 8 birdies and an eagle.  In fact, if this had been stroke play, Colsaerts would have posted a 10-under-par 62 for his round.  On 17, with the Americans down by one hole, Tiger hit a spectacular approach shot to within 4 feet that looked as though it would square the match -- but Colsaerts rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to halve the hole and keep his team ahead.

Meanwhile, the Southerners I had wanted to play in the morning -- Watson, Simpson, and Kuchar -- all did very well.  Watson and Simpson in particular put on an unbelievable show -- they birdied seven of the first eight holes in their match to take a six-up lead that was too much for Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson to overcome.  Southern golfers played a big role in the U.S. victory in 2008, and it's good to see a strong Southern contingent helping again.

Since I've been critical of U.S. Captain Davis Love, I should note that I thought the Euros should have played Donald and Garcia -- who are always tough in the Ryder Cup -- and who were unfortunate to run into the red-hot Bradley in the morning rounds.

It's a real shame for me that this event makes me too nervous to watch, because it is a wonderful competition.  The crowds today were enormous, the course looked great in the crisp fall air, and the golfers -- taking advantage of a relatively easy set-up and rules that encourage aggressive play -- provided a wonderful highlight reel of shots.

The British betting services now show the Americans as 2 to 5 favorites.  The odds on the Europeans are 5 to 2, and you get 10 to 1 if you bet on a 14-14 tie.  We'll hope the oddsmakers are right -- but it should be noted that in 2010, the United States led 6-4 -- and then the Europeans took 5 1/2 of the last six team points to build a commanding 9 1/2 - 6 1/2 lead going into the singles.  So we still have a long way to go.

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