The Ryder Cup is underway, serving as a weird pseudo-encore to an Olympic-fueled summer of patriotism.
Golf is always so hard because, unlike most major sports, nobody knows who to root for. Nobody has a favorite team. But in the Ryder Cup, teams are well-defined and there's nothing nebulous about who to support on each shot. It makes for a bloody good time, if I do say so myself.
The Americans hopped out to a 5-3 lead on day one, capitalizing on a near-sweep of the afternoon fourball matches. Tiger Woods, however, lost both of his matches, which is sure to steal tonight's Sportscenter headlines away from the brilliant play of Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Nicolas Colsaerts and Keegan Bradley.
Let's take a look at what happened in each match:
The morning session is foursome matches. Each twosome alternates shots, playing only one ball, which determines their eventual score.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell defeat Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, 1-up
The Europeans held the lead from the sixth all the way to the 15th. The Americans tied it up on the sixteenth and the two sides headed into 18 all square.
But Snedeker made an errant tee shot on 18, putting the US at a major disadvantage. A bogey would give the round to McIlroy and McDowell.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley defeat Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, 4 & 3
Phil got off to a hot start on what would eventually become one of his best Ryder Cup days ever (more on that to come).
Bradley emerged as a potential star during the surprising shellacking of Donald and Garcia, a duo which, until today, had never lost when paired together.
Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson defeat Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, 3 & 2
In true Zach Johnson form, this duo was quiet, staid and, ultimately successful. Even Johnson's name is unassuming!
The Americans trailed for most of the front nine before squaring it on the ninth, taking the lead on the tenth, and refusing to ever relinquish it. Just another day at the office.
Ian Poulter and Justin Rose defeat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, 2 & 1
This one's on you, Tiger.
Starting with his opening tee shot (which almost went out of bounds) Woods was lackluster the entire day, sabotaging him and Stricker's round from the get go. The Europeans led nearly wire-to-wire; they took the lead on the fourth and never relinquished it.
This was the third straight loss for the duo of Woods and Stricker.
The afternoon session is fourball matches. Each player plays with his own ball, and the lower score from each team is the ball that counts.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson def. Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, 5 & 4
A dominant performance from the pair of surprising young major winners, both of whom kept their breakout years rolling along. The Americans made an astounding 10 birdies in 14 holes, icing the match before even playing the 15th hole.
However, the match will be best remembered not for the golf, but for Bubba Watson's Happy Gilmore-inspired tomfoolery on the first tee. G is normally plaid under a prim-and-proper code of silence, but Watson eschewed convention and riled up the crowd, firing his shot amid screams from the audience.
Watson, a good-ole' Southern boy just like his partner Simpson, is clearly amped to be representing his county, and that excitement manifested itself in a way that will probably live in infamy.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley defeat Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, 2 & 1
Mickelson made his country proud on Friday, winning matches in both the morning and afternoon sessions. And he did so against the North Irish duo of McIlroy and McDowell––thought to be one of, if not the single strongest pair in the field.
Things got a little dicey after a big lead on the front nine, but the duo was able to hold on. Although the European's struggled, Mickelson's trademark penchant for handling himself in clutch situations was the key, helping the US score a big win late in the day.
Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson defeat Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer, 3 & 2
The Europeans took a lead on the first, but promptly had it snatched back then never even got a whiff of it again.
Johnson and Kuchar played solid (typical for those two), but the real story was Martin Kaymer's continued incompetence. For the second straight round he didn't contribute a single birdie, leaving some to question his spot on the team in the first place.
He'll be under a microscope for the rest of the tournament.
Nicolas Colsaerts and Lee Westwood defeat Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, 1-up
Good job, good effort Tiger.
Actually, that's mean. Woods and Stricker are the only American duo who lost twice today, but it's hard to put the onus completely on Tiger. The Billion Dollar Man sunk seven birdies in the round, but was outgunned by Colsaerts––a Ryder Cup rookie––who nailed eight birdies and an eagle. He looked nothing at all like he did in the morning.
There's always tomorrow for Tiger, and if he shoots like he did this afternoon, he shouldn't be winless for too long.
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