MEDINAH, Ill. –- You want evidence that this was a Ryder Cup day unlike so many others? Start with the most experienced participant of them all, Phil Mickelson.
Having made his Ryder Cup debut in 1995 when his playing partner, Keegan Bradley was 9, and his afternoon opponent, Rory McIlroy, was 6, Mickelson has known far more downs than ups. But Day 1 at Medinah CC surely was one of few highlights because for the first time in his Ryder Cup history, Mickelson won two matches in the same day.
Hard to fathom, but it’s true, and what’s more, Mickelson stopped a couple of skids that sort of framed his heartache in this event.
By teaming with Keegan Bradley for a 4 and 3 win in foursomes over Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, Mickelson won his first team match since a Friday afternoon four-ball win with Anthony Kim in 2008. And it was his first foursomes triumph since teaming with David Toms on Saturday afternoon in 2004.
Overall, Mickelson improved to 3-5-4 in foursomes. His four-ball mark improved to 6-8-2 with an afternoon triumph over Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
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NOT THE USUAL STUFF FROM STALWARTS: At the other end of the spectrum were Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods.
Westwood struggled in foursomes (with Francesco Molinari), but salvaged something of the day thanks to the utterly brilliant rookie, Nicolas Colsaerts. Thus, in his eighth Ryder Cup, Westwood still hasn’t lost twice in a day and he improved to 17-12-6 in his career.
The same can’t be said for Woods, who got his wish, two matches with good friend Steve Stricker, but they were hardly the dependable anchors captain Davis Love had hoped for.
Losing, 2 and 1, in foursomes, and 1-up in four-ball, Woods was beaten twice in a day for the third time in his Ryder Cup career. He also lost twice on Friday in 2002 and Friday in 2004.
Stricker and Woods are now 2-3 in their Ryder Cup partnership. Woods’ Ryder Cup record fell to 13-16-2 and he’s now 1-7 in matches against Westwood.
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SHORT AND VERY SWEET: The tidy, par-4 15th proved to be an American cash cow. All four foursomes teams in the morning made birdie to win the hole, while McDowell and Westwood each drove into water right. Of the three matches that got that far in the afternoon four-ball, the Americans won one, lost one, and halved one. For the day, the seven American teams that made it that far played it in 6-under.
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TOUGH TIMES CONTINUE: Jim Furyk – who alongside Brandt Snedeker went to the 18th hole in foursomes and lost to Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – is now 8-16-4 in his Ryder Cup career, 3-6-2 in foursomes. But here’s a head-shaker: Furyk hasn’t enjoyed a victory over one of the current European Ryder Cuppers since he beat Garcia in singles – in 1999! He’s a combined 1-17-3 against this crew in blue.
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TEMPER THAT ENTHUSIASM: A scintillating performance in the afternoon four-ball could go a long way in building an American victory, but a word of caution. It was the first 3-1 American advantage in a session since the Friday afternoon four-balls in 1995 at Oak Hill CC. Of course, Europeans relish what happened that year, an unforgettable comeback in singles that led to a 14 1/2 – 13 1/2 victory.
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DAY 1 IS GOOD TO AMERICANS: It’s the third consecutive Ryder Cup in which the Americans have led after Day 1. It was a hybrid of sorts in 2010, with just four matches because of rain, and the U.S. led, 2 1/2 – 1 1/2. They also led in Valhalla in 2008, 5 1/2 – 2 1/2.
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GOOD START FOR NEW GUYS: Pretty brilliant day for the rookies. Three of the four Americans (Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley) won their debut matches, while the only European rookie (Nicolas Colsaerts) not only won, he was a one-man machine, his nine birdies powering his team’s win over Woods and Stricker.
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NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM: If long and unimaginative par 3s tickle your fancy, get on out here to Medinah CC. For the morning foursomes, the second was set up at 192 yards over water, the 13th at 249 over water, and the 17th at 184 over water. The eighth was 208, but it didn’t play over water. What a novelty.
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SHORT SHOTS: Mickelson and Bradley handed Garcia his first-ever loss in foursomes. The Spaniard had been 8-0-1 . . . . . It was also the first-ever foursomes loss for the team of Garcia and Donald. They had been 4-0 . . . . . Bradley is Mickelson’s 14th Ryder Cup partner and his eighth in foursomes . . . . . Dustin Johnson won his first team match in the Ryder Cup, going out with Matt Kuchar for a four-ball triumph over Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer. Johnson lost all three team matches he played in 2010 . . . . . There was just one team bogey by either side in the afternoon four-ball, that by Mickelson and Bradley as they struggled at the par-4 sixth . . . . . Kaymer, once No. 1 in the world but now spiraling at 32nd, demonstrated that he’s still got some issues with his game. He sat out the foursomes and failed to make a birdie in his afternoon four-ball alongside Justin Rose . . . . . Westwood was the only other afternoon player to go without a birdie.