The Americans have a healthy 10 to 6 lead over Team Europe after the first two days of the 39th Ryder Cup and Tiger Woods is 0-3. That’s remarkable on a couple levels, how US did it and how Tiger didn’t.
The caliber of play got better as the day grew long. The last few matches were witness to some tremendous shots, on both sides. And Europe won two tough matches to turn a rout into a competition again.
It’s still a sizable lead for the Americans as the competition continues Sunday with 12 singles matches. With the second day completed, here are my 10 reflections:
- When it comes to captain’s pick, Ian Poulter (pictured) had to be a no-brainer for Team Europe’s Jose Maria Olazabal. Poulter seems oblivious to the pressure and the atmosphere. It’s almost like he enjoys the away crowd jeering, feeding off it. He was 10-3 after winning his morning match, but, strangely, when he teamed with world’s No. 1, Rory McIIroy, his team scrambled all day against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. But he dropped a 12-footer on the final hole for a Europe win, 1-up, and he is now 11-3.
- Keegan Bradley continues to soar. The hyped-up youngster playing again with his more reserved partner Phil Mickelson crushed their opponents, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, in the morning alternate-shot format, 7&6. That matches the biggest rout in Ryder Cup history. Bradley is the story of this year’s Ryder Cup. He and Mickelson sat out the Saturday’s afternoon session, as captain Davis Love III wants everyone to be rested for Sunday’s singles. But really, how draining is it for 20-something Bradley?
- Woods played well Friday afternoon in a tough loss but overall he did not step up until it was too late Saturday afternoon. He has been missing fairways and putts, but finally played well down the stretch to make it a match against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald. All his opponents also seemed to have stepped up their games. Even Garcia made some putts against him. Woods and Stricker, the only two Americans without a win, lost, 1-down.
- Say what you want about big drives and long approach shots, match play really comes down to putting – even more so than the regular Tour. Luke Donald is one of the best putters in the game but the U.S. has four guys who always are among the top dozen or so on the greens, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. That’s the big difference thus far.
- Colin Montgomerie, interviewed by the NBC folks, said Team USA captain Davis Love III should be commended for “the way to suit this course to the American putting.” He’s just the worst whiner. Like they putt on hay fields in Europe?
- It was clearly and understandably a pro-U.S. crowd with the noise echoing through the hollows. The U-S-A chants do get old, like from the first time it’s yelled, but the crowds’ spirit makes the event so much more enjoyable.
- Francisco Molinari, dropping a clutch putt in his afternoon session, turned to the crowd and made a mock ‘quiet-down” gesture. You don’t see that on the Tour. It can also backfire on him. For the record, he lost his match, 5&4.
- Team USA captain Davis Love III took some guts resting all his players at one time or another, even Tiger sat in the morning for the first time in his Ryder Cup history. He also rested hot Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson in the afternoon. You can’t argue with his results thus far and all his players are rested for Sunday.
- The best shots: Luke Donald’s tee shot on the par-3, 12th in the afternoon. It nearly went in, settling two feet away. Second best was Donald’s tee shot on No. 17 that also nearly went in and stayed just 20 inches away. Third best was Dustin Johnson’s 30-foot birdie putt on 17, essentially clinching the match.
- For the first time in memory, Sunday’s play my be anti-climatic. Team Europe has to reach at least 14, meaning they need eight of the 12 points available, to tie the Americans and retain the cup.