Riley Proves He Belongs at Ryder Cup


04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Chris Riley is the least-qualified U.S. Ryder Cup member. Following one of America's worst days in golf's most important team competition, there was no question he belonged.
Riley is a nervous bundle of energy whose sophomoric humor kept his teammates loose all week. On Friday, he prevented them from being shut out during the morning's four better-ball matches against Europe by sinking a 6-foot par putt on No. 18 to halve his match.
'We kept saying we needed that one point,' Riley said after he and Stewart Cink tied Europe's Paul McGinley and Luke Donald.
It was only a half-point, but it was a half-point more than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson got all day. It kept the Americans from being down 4-0 for the first time in the Ryder Cup, and provided a sliver of hope for the afternoon's alternate-shot matches, though only the Chris DiMarco-Jay Haas team wound up winning.
Just like he long thought it would be, Sept. 17 proved to be a huge day in Riley's life -- though not for the original reason.
Friday was the due date for wife Michelle to give birth to the couple's first child, but labor was induced early and daughter Taylor Lynn arrived two weeks ago, allowing Riley to take part in the Ryder Cup.
Good thing, too, given how excited Riley was just to make the team. U.S. captain Hal Sutton has never seen a player happier after qualifying, and Riley spent all week soliciting advice from any U.S. team member who would offer it.
Cink joked there are 8-year-olds less wound up than Riley, who played Friday morning mostly because Sutton didn't dare make him wait until the afternoon.
'He'd be hyperventilating,' Sutton said.
'Your first Ryder Cup, the nerves and all that, is nothing like me or Chad has ever experienced,' Riley said of close friend Chad Campbell, who teamed with Davis Love III to lose, 5 and 4, to Europe's Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez. 'But the more you play, the more comfortable you feel.'
Riley looked relaxed when his 195-yard approach shot rolled to within inches of the No. 7 flag, and he tapped in the short putt to win the hole. Riley is average with his driver and long irons, but Sutton trusts him as much as anyone with an important putt.
'I'm actually a little disappointed we didn't win the match,' Riley said. 'But making that putt on the last hole, it was good.'
When he walked off No. 18, Sutton put his arm on Riley's shoulder and said, 'That half-point might be the difference come Sunday afternoon.'
Riley knew from the scoreboard the other three U.S. teams were behind, but he said the enormity of the moment didn't affect him even after he felt his knees shaking on the first tee.
'Obviously we don't want to get skunked, but I was just playing my game,' he said. 'I'm just happy to contribute to the team.'
That Riley was on the team is an upset in itself.
Riley, 30, of San Diego, hasn't won on the PGA Tour since the 2002 Reno-Tahoe Open, though he lost to John Daly in a playoff at the Buick Invitational earlier this year. His fourth-place finish in the PGA put him on the team, but until Friday he hadn't played a competitive round since finishing 43rd in the NEC Invitational Aug. 22.
Earlier in the week, Riley was asked to relate an anecdote about his career. His response? 'What's an anecdote?'
He has one worth telling now, even if his Ryder Cup debut didn't provide an antidote for the Americans' problems.
'There was no way we were going to miss the last putt because we played our hearts out all day,' Riley said. 'I just buckled down and didn't even think about missing it.'
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