After teaming with Tiger Woods for a dominating win in better-ball on Saturday morning, the 30-year-old told U.S. captain Hal Sutton that he was too tired to come out for alternate-shot play in the afternoon.
'I'm pretty drained right now,' Riley said after the 4-and-3 victory over Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter. 'So I told (Sutton) I wasn't ready to go. And look at our U.S. team, we have tons of guys that will step up and play.'
Sutton paired Woods with Davis Love III for the afternoon match, but the two fell 4-and-3 to Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Woods just didn't look as comfortable without his childhood buddy from California by his side.
Woods seemed to feed off Riley's enthusiasm and emotion in his first victory of the weekend, smiling often and high-fiving the charismatic rookie.
But Riley, who has been one of the U.S. team's lone bright spots with 1 1/2 points in two matches, has been bouncing off the walls since arriving at Oakland Hills, and it may have caught up with him on Saturday.
'I just said, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do, but if it was up to me, I'm pretty emotionally drained, and let's get a fresh guy out there,'' said Riley, who also became a father for the first time on Sept. 2.
That didn't sit well with Sutton, who played five times in the Americans' 1999 win at Brookline.
'I said, 'A 42-year-old fat man in '99 went five straight matches, so I'm sure that a 30-year-old flat-belly that's hyper can go four, can't ya?''
When Riley hesitated, Sutton didn't.
'I just thought, 'Well if he really doesn't feel like it, well then I'm not sure he can help us as much as somebody who is really energetic about being out there. So I went a different direction.'
Love was a natural alternative after teaming with Woods for two wins at The Belfry in 2002.
But Woods wasn't the same with the reserved Love as his partner, and the lackluster loss helped Europe build an 11-5 lead by the day's end.
Riley was relegated to the role of cheerleader in his team's disastrous afternoon of alternate-shot play, even though his morning match went just 15 holes and he only played one match on Friday.
'I want to be fresh and ready to go tomorrow morning because I think it's going to be a big deal tomorrow,' Riley said.
From the look of things, that may be too late.
Things didn't look good for Europeans Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington early in their alternate-shot match against Tiger Woods and Davis Love III.
The Irishmen lost the first two holes, and it took some wise words from McGinley to right the ship.
As the teammates strode off the second green, McGinley pulled Harrington aside and said, 'Let's stop playing the two guys. Let's concentrate on our own ball like it's a U.S. Open and try to shoot under par.'
It worked. McGinley and Harrington methodically chipped away at the lead, then blew by Woods and Love after the turn en route to a 4-and-3 win.
'We've been pals for 20 years and it's the first time he's ever paid heed to me,' McGinley quipped.
HOME CROWD ADVANTAGE?
The Ryder Cup may be taking place on U.S. soil, but there's definitely an Irish presence at Oakland Hills.
Irish players Paul McGinley, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke have seen plenty of friendly faces amid the red, white and blue.
'It was great to have the Irish support out there,' McGinley said. 'We have massive support from everybody.'
One of the most vocal and visible supporters was Tony Reynolds, who was dressed head-to-toe in the national colors of orange, white and green and a huge orange wig.
'He's my caddie's father,' McGinley said. 'My caddie's girlfriend was bumped off the plane to put him on. But he didn't come on dressed like that.'
Tiger Woods carried partner Chris Riley through the first 11 holes of their better-ball match until a smart move got the rookie going on No. 12.
Woods was responsible for the pair's score on nine straight holes and 10 of the first 11 when he allowed Riley to putt on No. 12, even though Woods was away.
'He's a veteran and he's been there before,' Riley said. 'He told me, 'You just knock it in.''
Riley holed the 4-footer to give the team a 3-up lead over Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter.
The birdie propelled Riley to a strong finish.
He followed with a brilliant tee shot on 13 that led to another birdie and a 4-up lead and closed the match out with one more birdie on 15 for a 4-and-3 victory.
The anchor match in better ball on Saturday morning was crawling along at a snail's pace, even before things got squirrelly on No. 9.
A squirrel scurried on to the tee box and lingered in the area, forcing Colin Montgomerie to wait for the critter to get out of the way.
The squirrel finally obliged, slipping off into the rough on the right side of the fairway, and an irritated Monty finally was able to tee off after a two-minute delay.
Tournament director Andy Odenbach's three-year stay in Michigan may be nearing an end, but he'll always have something to remember it by.
Odenbach moved to Michigan in 2001 to prepare the course and the community for one of golf's biggest events.
'It's crazy to think that I've spent three years of my life preparing for six days,' Odenbach said. 'It's like going to college, but there's no midterm. Only the final exam.'
He anticipated staying for only two years. But the 2001 Ryder Cup at The Belfry was delayed a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, pushing the Oakland Hills event back to this year.
But after the matches conclude on Sunday, it's all over.
'It's a letdown. You spend so much time here and then the sports world has moved on,' he said.
Odenbach will move on as well, to Pebble Beach, but he'll never forget his time in Michigan.
His wife gave birth to their first child in December. After choosing Gavin for the first name, Andy said, 'I think we need a little symbolism here.'
Gavin's middle name? Ryder, of course.
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