NEWPORT, Wales – Jeff Overton gave the 60 or so Hoosiers at Celtic Manor plenty to cheer about on a chilly Saturday morning.
Overton made six birdies in his opening four-ball match to earn an unexpected point for the United States. Many expected the rookie pairing of Overton and Bubba Watson to struggle, but its 3-and-2 victory over Padraig Harrington and and Luke Donald was the United States’ largest winning margin of the opening session.
“We were kind of nervous, but I think we were able to put those nerves together and do something really great today,” Overton said. “It’s just golf. We’re professionals here. Just because we’re rookies, doesn’t mean we’re going to go out there and choke.”
Overton started the match with an unlikely birdie in the worst of Friday’s weather, holing a putt from the chipping area behind the first green. He ended Friday’s play by knocking his third shot stiff on the par-5 ninth to end the day with a conceded birdie.
He continued Saturday morning where he left off, starting with three consecutive birdies. He hit 5-iron to 13 feet on No. 10, gap wedge to 18 feet on 11 and 6-iron to 15 feet on the 12th. That run put the United States 3 up.
U.S. captain Corey Pavin paired Overton and Watson because of their ability to make plenty of birdies.
“The four or five years we’ve been out there, we’ve made probably as many birdies as anybody on the PGA Tour,” Overton said.
They have that in common, but their differences also helped the team dynamic.
“He’s goofy. He’s always chattering,” Overton said of his partner. “I get nervous and I go silent, and he gets a little nervous and he likes to chirp. It’s a good little combination.”
Foursomes will be a challenge for the United States’ new dynamic duo. The two were expected to sit during the foursomes session, but will have to play because of the new schedule. Overton and Watson did not practice alternate shot during the week’s practice rounds.
They’ll have plenty of support to help them handle the format.
There’s a large contingent of Overton supporters at Celtic Manor wearing red Indiana University hats. About 60 Hoosiers bought seats on the United States’ charter to Wales. The group included Overton’s coach at Indiana, Mike Mayer, and a couple college teammates.
U.S. assistant captain Tom Lehman drove around Celtic Manor sporting a red IU hat during one of the practice days. Lehman attended the University of Minnesota.
“It’s pretty hard to get one Big Ten guy to switch to another school,” Overton joked.
It’s supposed to be even more difficult for a rookie to win his first Ryder Cup match. Overton made it look easy, though.