MEDINAH, Ill. – Bubba Watson set the tone for the Americans on Friday in the afternoon fourball session at the Ryder Cup when he insisted the gallery on the first hole cheer loudly while he hit his first drive. He split the center of the fairway.
It was a 'Happy Gilmore' moment at the Ryder Cup that began a 3-1 session-victory for the U.S., giving the Americans a 5-3 lead after Day 1.
Watson was paired with Webb Simpson and both sat out the morning foursomes that ended in a 2-2 tie. But Watson and Simpson were up for the challenge against Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson as each made five birdies, for a combined 10 birdies in 14 holes to cruise to a 5-and-4 victory.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Watson said. “Just playing with a buddy that can keep me cool, know he’s going to play really good.”
While the lead U.S. match was going berserk, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were doing the same in the second match. After dusting one of Europe’s top duos in the morning – a 4-and-3 win over Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald – they were pitted against another top pair, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, in the afternoon.
Bradley birdied Nos. 1 and 3, Mickelson made birdie on No. 2 and the Americans were quickly 3 up after three holes. They extended the lead to 4 up after eight and rolled to a 2-and-1 win that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. The final shot came on the par-3 17th hole when Mickelson’s tee shot ended 2 feet from the hole to end the match.
“Oh, baby, I wish I could go 36 more,” Bradley said. “I love playing with him. That last shot just showed why Phil Mickelson is a Hall of Famer.'
The Northern Irishmen didn’t play poorly but didn’t produce enough firepower to mount a serious charge. McIlroy made four birdies and McDowell made only two.
“They got off to a very fast start and at the end of the day we just gave ourselves a little bit too much to do,” McIlroy said.
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar also sat out the morning session for the U.S. and were fresh in the afternoon. Kuchar made four consecutive birdies on Nos. 4-7 and they beat Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer, 3 and 2.
Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker went 0-2 together Friday. Woods struggled mightily in the morning against Rose and Ian Poulter and many were wondering if U.S. captain Davis Love III would sit him for the first session of his Ryder Cup career. But Love gave the two a chance to redeem themselves.
The surprise wasn’t so much that they lost 1 down, it’s how they lost and who they lost to. Paired against Lee Westwood and Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts, Woods and Stricker made nine birdies together, with Woods collecting seven. But Colsaerts made eight birdies and an eagle on his own to single-handedly defeat the Americans' top team.
Westwood was a complete nonfactor and his score counted toward the team total on just four holes.