DUBLIN, Ohio – Phil Mickelson summoned the kind of roar you hear only at major championships.
When he buried a 15-foot putt for eagle at the fifth hole in the leadoff foursome match Friday at the Presidents Cup, a small quake rolled across Muirfield Village Golf Club. If it were any deeper into October, the roar might have emptied the trees here of all their leaves.
This may not be the Ryder Cup, but for one wild moment, it sounded as if it were.
Mickelson and teammate Keegan Bradley played like it was.
The duo found their mojo again in a big way. After going 3-0 as partners at the Ryder Cup last year, Mickelson/Bradley were dealt their first loss as a team in Thursday’s fourballs at the Presidents Cup. They bounced back Friday with a fury, though, drumming Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, 4 and 3.
“It reminded me of the Ryder Cup, getting excited, hitting a lot of great shots, feeding off each other and never allowing them to get a hole,” Bradley said. “If they were to beat us, they were going to have to make birdie or better.”
Mickelson and Bradley claimed the first American point in Friday’s rain-suspended session after a front-nine blitz.
Bradley set up the run at the fifth hole, as only he can do, with his idiosyncratic prelude of multiple club twirls and false starts before drilling a majestic hybrid some 270 yards, just past the flag, leaving Mickelson 15 feet for the eagle. After Mickelson’s putt fell, bringing down all that noise, Bradley slapped his partner on the butt.
“It was 248 or 250 yards to carry the water there,” Mickelson said. “I’d be really worried about carrying the water with a hybrid, but it wasn’t even a consideration for Keegan. He hit the most beautiful hybrid, dead straight. It couldn’t have been an easier 15-foot putt downhill. It felt great to make that putt and take advantage of the great shot he just hit. It was a big momentum boost.”
Day hit a wedge to a foot there to set up an easy birdie.
“They ended up losing a hole with a birdie,” Mickelson said. “That’s always tough to take.”
Mickelson and Bradley were 1 down going to the fifth, but they found the spark they needed there. They went eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie to take a 3-up lead going to the ninth hole. They had a chance at another birdie there after Bradley carved a wedge to 8 feet. Mickelson, with an opportunity to close out a front-nine 29, couldn’t convert. Still, they made the turn 3 up.
The front-nine 30 they posted is ridiculously good in alternate shot, the most difficult format in team golf.
“I just think when Phil and I get going in alternate shot, we really complement each other,” Bradley said. “I think we both really enjoy showing off in front of each other.”
Even Friday’s 2-hour 36-minute rain delay couldn’t slow Mickelson and Bradley. They came out after the skies cleared to resume action at the 10th hole. They promptly won the first three holes of the back nine to take a commanding 6-up lead.
Though they lost the 13th and 14th holes, Mickelson and Bradley closed out the match in unusual fashion at the 15th. They conceded a 20-foot birdie putt to Day and DeLaet, then Bradley sank a 4-footer for birdie for the win.
“No matter what, I needed to make that putt,” Bradley said.
Back at last year’s Ryder Cup, Mickelson and Bradley teamed to defeat the foursome juggernaut of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who were a combined 14-0-1 in the format. They also took down the formidable Northern Ireland pairing of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell that same week.
This is Bradley’s second international team competition as a pro. He has yet to team with anyone other than Mickelson as a partner. They’re now 4-1 as partners, 3-0 in foursomes.
“After losing, the first match we’ve lost together, we were both pretty devastated,” Bradley said. “It felt horrible. We were ready to go out and win this match.”
Mickelson, 43, took Bradley, 27, under his wing a few years back. They’ve forged a bond in Mickelson’s weekly money matches in practice rounds at PGA Tour events. They seem to relish exchanging good-natured barbs.
At last year’s Ryder Cup, Mickelson acknowledged Bradley’s effect on him.
“I felt young, and it felt great,” Mickelson said after they took down Donald and Garcia.
The talents match up pretty well.
“I know wherever I hit it, Phil can get it up and down,” Bradley said earlier this week. “So that's lucky for me. If Phil hits it in the woods and I've got to chip out, that's totally fine. If I do it to him, I know he's going to do the same. There's no 'I'm sorry’s, none of that nonsense.”
It was a no-nonsense day of shot-making for the American duo.