The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest stages in golf, filled with pressure, intensity and high demand to perform.
While we all expected the veterans to be the ones to bring their A-game, it was the rookies who simply stepped it up. Four of the five rookies on the U.S. team provided the adequate help to propel them to a 5-3 advantage on opening day.
The Europeans—without the amazing effort by Nicholas Colsaerts, could have been shut out. Colsaerts made an incredible eight birdies on day one, and topped it off with an eagle as well.
One could say this list could be entirely comprised of the European team, but that'd be silly, especially with the news of the rapidly under-performing Tiger Woods being benched today for the first time in his career.
So who exactly is on the list of players in need of an improvement on day two?
Before I get bashed for this one and people say, "But Phil and Keegan Bradley won two matches on opening day!"
Well, that's partially correct.
Keegan won it for them. He is now 2-0-0 in his Ryder Cup career.
Lefty? After nine years at the Ryder Cup (a new American record), he has still yet to win two matches on day one. Also, his two wins on Friday matched his entire win total over the past two Ryder Cups.
Bradley had the crowd involved throughout the day with his focus, drive, fist-pumping tendencies and his affinity for man-hugging Mickelson. Lefty took the back burner.
As the pair looked as though they were losing steam around the eighth, the dynamic duo came back plodding along.
Phil's biggest moment of the day came when he slammed the ball two feet short of the cup on the par-3, 17th. It solidified the end of the match, but didn't solidify his place as superstar on his own team. That designation went to Bradley, as he became a star when he sunk 25-foot birdie on the 15th.
Yeah, Phil played well. He looked like the Phil of old. But he'll need to keep producing, and at a higher rate to dethrone Bradley as the most important element of the U.S. team.
Jose Maria Olazabal
The European team captain, Jose Maria Olazabal called his team out after a shoddy performance yesterday:
“I’m going to make it clear to the boys that they need to step it up. They need to play better golf, simple as that. There are no secrets about this game. You have to make more birdies than your opponent and if you don’t do that, you’re going to struggle. We do have to change the momentum.”
So why did you sit down your hottest player in the second session yesterday, Ian Poulter?
He knocked down four birdies in the first session yesterday. His highlights came when he holed a bunker shot, nailed a long birdie putt and sank a par putt that led he and teammate Justin Rose to victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
His overall Ryder Cup record?
So why did he sit in the second part of the day?
Olazabal put so eloquently when he said, "I wanted to have every player play during the first day and obviously in order to do that, you have to drop some of those players that have played in the morning." (h/t Chicago Tribune)
Instead of worrying who plays when or if they actually do get to the tee, Olazabal needs to worry about keeping Poulter and Colsaerts on the green.
Upon hearing the news that the U.S. was up 5-3 after day one, many would have thought Tiger played an integral part of it.
Not so much.
Woods was shut out on opening day, the fourth time he has done so in his Ryder Cup career.
U.S. team captain, Davis Love decided to bench Woods for the third session on Saturday, saying it was more of a precautionary move in wanting his key players to be rested for the singles matches on Sunday.
The soft kitty's streak of playing in 31 consecutive matches ended with that news.
Woods no-showed Friday, losing both matches he played in with teammate Steve Stricker at the hands of wildcard superstar Colsaerts and Lee Westwood, and the aforementioned Poulter and Rose in the morning matchups.
That isn't to say Tiger didn't hit the ball well, he was just outmatched — and inconsistent.
He hit a couple birdies, but also missed two. On the 15th, Tiger was a shoe-in for putting down a 6-foot birdie, only to miss it just off the lip, which put the team down 2. Then on 18, Woods rimmed out a 12-foot putt that could have kept it reasonably close, only to have it deviate to the left side of the hole.
There is no doubt that Woods was disappointing on day one, but there's also no doubt that he'll be back.
The next time will be with a vengeance.