MEDINAH, Ill. – This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Ryder Cup rout.
They embarrassed a pair of former No. 1 players in the world in a record drubbing.
How good is that? No Ryder Cup tandem has won by a larger margin in an 18-hole match. The rout equaled the beating Americans Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara gave Nick Faldo and David Gilford in 1991. It also equaled the beating Americans Hale Irwin and Tom Kite gave Ken Brown and Des Smyth in ’79.
The victory boosted the Mickelson-Bradley duo to 3-0 this week.
Bradley, by the way, becomes the first American rookie to win his first three matches since Mickelson did it in ’95.
They did not get a chance to make it 4-0 as partners. U.S. captain Davis Love III stuck to his plan to rest all of his players at least a match and sat down Mickelson and Bradley for the Saturday afternoon fourballs.
How good is this dynamic duo? The veteran and the rookie have rolled over three of the best tandems in Europe’s dominant Ryder Cup run the last 10 years. They wrecked Sergio Garcia and Donald’s perfect record (4-0) in foursomes by winning, 4 and 3, on Friday. They also knocked off the Northern Irish combo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in fourballs, 2 and 1.
Mickelson, 42, and Bradley, 26, may be from different generations in the game, but they think about the game in the same way.
“There are all kinds of golf brains, but these two have the same type,” said Jim “Bones” Mackay. “I have never seen alternate shot played like that.”
Mackay marveled at Mickelson’s clutch 7-iron to 3 feet that put away McIlroy-McDowell on Friday. He marveled even more at Mickelson’s shot at the 12th to beat Donald-Westwood. With the Americans in trouble after a pair of wayward shots through the trees, Mickelson recovered smartly, carving a wedge onto a ridge on the high, left side of the green. The gallery went nuts when the shot took the slope and trickled 40 feet downhill, nearly into the hole.
Mackay said Mickelson’s drawings in his yardage book are so detailed he knew exactly where to land the shot.
Bradley called Mickelson’s clinching shot at the 17th to close out Friday’s fourballs win the best shot he’s ever seen. He said Mickelson’s clinching shot at the 12th on Saturday was nearly as good.
“I told Phil when he got to the green that it was the second best shot I’ve ever seen,” Bradley said.
Mickelson and Bradley teamed to make six birdies in 12 holes on Saturday. That’s almost unheard of in foursomes (alternate shot). In a match behind them, McIlroy and McDowell didn’t make a birdie over their first 12 holes.
“To be able to share this experience with Keegan and to partake in his great play and his experience of the Ryder Cup has been really awesome,” Mickelson said. “We have had so much fun.”
Bradley continued to fuel Mickelson and the American galleries with high-octane emotion.
“That guy’s intense,” one spectator said with Bradley exhorting the crowd on the way to the ninth green.
Bradley’s probably a little too intense for Europe’s liking. After rolling in a 10-foot birdie to win the ninth hole, he let out a raucous “Wooo-hooo!” while pumping his fists at the crowd. At that point, the Americans were 5 up. Bradley reminds veteran Ryder Cup observers of the way Garcia so boldly and emotionally introduced himself to the event.
Few players attack the way Bradley does. He approaches his ball like a hockey player coming out of a penalty box.
The duo was irrepressible Saturday. Donald and Westwood watched them win the second hole playing out of the trees. They won that last hole the same way. Mickelson’s iron game was razor sharp all day.
No playing partners have had more fun this week than Mickelson and Bradley.
“It’s a little ying and yang,” said Steve “Pepsi” Hale, Bradley’s caddie. “Phil is so laid back and Keegan’s so intense. I think they bring out the best in each other and balance each other out.”
There’s a big brother and little brother phenomenon there.
“There is a real bond there,” Mackay said.