Editor’s note: Greater Louisville golf professional Mike Thomas is the father of 2017 PGA Player of the Year and 2018 United States Ryder Cup team member Justin Thomas. Mike will be sharing his impressions of this week’s Ryder Cup matches at Le Golf National outside Paris with the Courier Journal.
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The only thing better than beating Ian Polter is beating him twice! That guy has some electricity with this crowd, and getting the fans to quiet down in his presence is a tall order. Like him or not, he is Mr. Ryder Cup.
Saturday morning was cold enough for stocking caps and gloves early on. My day started with our bus driver getting lost, so by the time we arrived players were already practicing. Was funny listening to people in foreign languages try to correct, direct, and berate the poor guy. I have no idea what was said, but it was still fun to watch.
Justin and Jordan Spieth’s first-round match Saturday was against two tough opponents with Ian and Jon Rahm. Ian was at his best and it was tight until the end. Both Jordan and Justin played well, making key shots and putts along the way. Justin birdied 14, 16 and 17 in a 2-and-1 win.
The afternoon round started out against Ian and Rory McIlroy, and Jordan and Justin promptly gifted them the first two holes. You don’t want to give players of this caliber holes for free, so the U.S. pair was behind the eight ball quickly.
They slowly worked their way back to even with key iron shots followed by key putts. Jordan drained putts on 13 and 14 that took it from a slim 2 up lead to 4 up, a match-play back breaker. An unbelievable iron shot from the rough on a side hill lie gave Jordan a look at an improbable birdie, and Jordan being Jordan, he made it!
On the final hole, after a dicey iron shot over water, Jordan finished the match off with another great putt. Hate playing against that guy when he’s doing that stuff but it’s nice to have him as a partner.
My Saturday takeaway is this: The talent these players possess is unbelievable. This is a BIG stage, and playing for your country is different. All of these players have tremendous talent; there is not a big divide between the best and everyone else. What is different is the incredible heart, guts and the strength of stomach to perform with all on the line. Not everyone wants the ball at the end of the game, and you can see that.
Tomorrow is going to be a tall order for Team USA. Trailing 10-6 entering singles play, we really need a rally or, as previously mentioned, to “play better.”
Go USA! Thank you for your support!