MEDINAH, Ill. – The United States team went from trailing in all four morning foursomes matches to an ending Ryder Cup performance from a best-case scenario.
In other words, the Yanks reversed the tables in more ways than one. For years the Europeans have done that kind of flipping and ridden that kind of momentum hour after hour. For years, the U.S. has been on the dark side of the rising wave. No more proof is needed that the fact the gents from the other side of the pond have won six of the past eight Ryder Cups.
Usually the U.S. captain has to resort to Plan B after the first day and shuffle pairings around as if they are a deck of cards. Now it’s European leader Jose Maria Olazabal’s turn to adjust on the fly and find combinations that unlock success.
That must have been some great lunch the Americans ate. They went from shaky in a 2-2 morning to brilliant in a 3-1 four-ball afternoon.
“Very impressive,” U.S. captain Davis Love III accurately said. “We were all cold, tight and nervous this morning. Then we came out really hot after lunch.”
That night-and-day transformation also applied to Tiger Woods, who sprayed his ball all over Medinah’s big ballpark in alternate shot and then made seven four-ball birdies later in losing 1-down to Ryder rookie Colsaerts’ remarkable production of an eagle and eight birdies.
Woods went from lead weight to lead dog after talking with instructor Sean Foley at “halftime” and making a swing adjustment.
It’s far too early to drink champagne, but the U.S. dinner should have gone down well. To get an idea of how splendid a day it was, consider that since continental Europe joined the fray in 1979, America had led after the first two sessions only six of 16 times before Friday. Not only that, but this was the first time since 1995 that the U.S. won three of four Friday four-balls.
Speaking of firsts, Love on Saturday night became the first captain to decide to sit Woods. Though Woods fixed a flaw and excelled in four-ball, Love chose to put him and Stricker on the sideline for Saturday morning foursomes for a “needed rest.”
“We felt we didn’t want anybody playing five matches on this golf course,” Love said. “(Woods) played very well this afternoon, but I don’t want guys to be worn out.”
I’m not sure I agree with sitting Woods. He can rest on Monday. It’s sensible to suggest the U.S. chances of winning the Cup would be enhanced if Woods and not Jim Furyk were going out with hot putter Brandt Snedeker on Saturday morn. Or if Woods paired with Dustin Johnson, the only player to finish in the top 10 in all four FedEx Cup playoff events.
Despite two Woods-Stricker losses, U.S. team members were calling it a great day or, at the least, a terrific afternoon. Love himself used the word “unbelievable.”
“There was a lot more noise in the afternoon after being kind of quiet in the morning,” Love said. “(Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson) really started the ball going. We were off and running then.”
He’s right about that.
Simpson-Watson went 6 up through eight holes in routing Peter, Paul and Mary, 5 and 4. (OK, actually Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie.)
Phil Mickelson and protege Keegan Bradley, golf’s hot new bromance, went 4 up through eight in winning their second match of the day, 2 and 1 over the Northern Ireland duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Remarkably, Mickelson and his clutch sidekick won seven consecutive holes over the two sessions.
Johnson and Matt Kuchar went 3 up through seven holes and won by that margin over Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.
The Americans would have run the four-ball table had Colsaerts not turned in one of the most impressive showings in golf history. Playing in his first Ryder Cup and going up against Woods, Colsaerts made at least six putts longer than 15 feet. That included a 25-foot birdie putt to retain a 1-up lead at 17, where Woods birdied from 3 feet.
Colsaerts might be the Belgian bomber, but he’s no Belgian waffler. He was confident, comfortable and focused.
“Nicolas had one of the best putting rounds I’ve even seen,” said Woods, not one for hyperbole.
Westwood didn’t disagree.
“A pleasure to watch,” said the Englishman, who made no birdies in the 1-up victory. “I didn’t really have much to do. It was an amazing round of golf.”
Should Europe go on to win, Colsaerts’ performance could be viewed as something as a game-saver. After all, if he just has an average putting day, the Europeans would have gone to bed down four points instead of two.