Ryder Cup Scores: Most Surprising Performances so Far

James ErmilioCorrespondent IIISeptember 29, 2012

Bradley has dominated the Ryder Cup heading into the weekend.
Bradley has dominated the Ryder Cup heading into the weekend.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The pressure hasn't gotten to the young American stars in their quest to bring the Ryder Cup back to the United States.  

Conventional wisdom dictates that experience should win the day at one of golf's most high-profile events.  But the United States ended the first day with a 5-3 advantage over Europe due largely to the efforts of their young guns.  Europe also had strong rookie performances on their side, despite their stalwarts underperforming early.  

There's plenty of time left for the Europeans to come back over the weekend and retain the Cup. Let's take a look at a few golfers on both sides whose strong performances came as big surprises in the first day-and-a-half.

Keegan Bradley (USA)

Rookie Keegan Bradley, or "Bradley Keegan" as a BBC radio host called him before the start of the Ryder Cup, has been America's MVP thus far.

As rookies, golfers are supposed to head into the Ryder Cup with eyes like dinner plates.  Instead, Bradley teamed with seasoned vet Phil Mickelson to bring home two wins on day one. 

Bradley and Mickelson crushed the formidable pairing of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, needing just 32 holes for the 4-and-3 win.  They handed the European pair their first loss in a foursomes match.

Then they posted an even more impressive victory, beating Europe's No. 1 pair—Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell— in a 2-and-1 win.  

They followed up "the best day of [Keegan Bradley's] life" with a Saturday morning blowout, tying the record for the most lopsided match ever (per ESPN.com).  They walloped Donald (poor guy) and Lee Westwood in a 7-and-6 victory. No pairing has clinched victory with six holes to go since Paul Azinger and Mark O'Meara back in 1991.

Instead of folding under the pressure, Bradley has shined.  He's come out of nowhere to help the United States take a commanding lead through early weekend play.   

Nicolas Colsaerts (Europe)

Not much is expected of a European golfer with little U.S. tournament experience playing in his first Ryder Cup.  Especially when he's matched up against Tiger Woods.

But the 29-year-old Nicolas Colsaerts asserted himself with a strong afternoon showing after sitting out the morning round.

Colsaerts has risen from mediocrity after playing in only three Euro Tour events between 2007 and 2010 and losing his regular spot on the Challenge Tour in 2009.  He's seen his star rise since then—including 10 top-10 finishes in Europe and a seventh-place tie in the 2011 British Open—and he was almost solely responsible for a crucial European win yesterday.

Colsaerts made an eagle and added eight birdies to carry his pairing to beat Woods and partner Steve Stricker.   His partner, eight-time Ryder Cup competitor Lee Westwood, contributed little to their victory.  

The European rookie has kept his team in Cup contention, and he's one of Europe's few bright spots early in the tournament.

Jason Dufner/Zach Johnson (USA)

One of golf's most unassuming duos has made a strong statement with their play early in this year's Ryder Cup. 

Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson started off rough and trailed Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari through the front nine of Friday morning's foursome match.  They evened up the match in the ninth hole and didn't look back, cruising through the back nine to win a gritty matchup in convincing 3-and-2 fashion.

Then they held off the white-hot Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia in a 2-and-1 victory on Saturday morning, delivering another huge blow to the Europeans.

They may not get the headlines, and they're not quite Rex Ryans of professional golf, but Dufner and Johnson have set the USA on a path to bring the Ryder Cup back across the Atlantic Ocean.