Chicago Sun-Times
The Chicago Sun-Times updates on the Ryder Cup and other golf happenings.

September 2012 Archives

Veteran Americans fail in the biggest moments

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The Americans will have plenty of moments to stew on in the days, weeks and months following Europe's historic 14.5-13.5 comeback victory here at Medinah. In the biggets moments, on holes 17 and 18, some of the Americans' most experienced players just couldn't come through.

Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose came to No. 18 all square after Rose made a big birdie putt on 17. Off the 18th tee, Mickelson found the fairway while Rose found the rough. Yet Mickelson missed the green and Rose stuck his approach out of the sand to about 12 feet. Rose made the putt to pull out a point he appeared to have no business winning just 20 minutes earlier.

Jim Furyk suffered a similar fate. He came to the 17th tee 1-up on Sergio Garcia, only to give it away with bogeys on 17 and 18. On the par-3 17th, his tee shot landed in the bunker, his second shot was well past the hole, and -- after a very lengthy session trying to read the putt, nearly falling into the water in the process -- he missed the comebacker. On 18, Furyk missed an utterly crucial 5-footer that would have halved the match, instead giving a point away to Garcia.

Then there was Steve Stricker -- who went 0-for-4 in his four matches at this Ryder Cup. After Martin Kaymer bogeyed 15 to square the match, Stricker made a big, gutsy 8-footer at 16 to halve the hole and keep the match tied. On 17, Stricker's tee shot landed just off the edge of the green, about 35 feet away. After Kaymer putted past the hole, Stricker putted even farther past the hole. Kaymer made the comebacker, and Stricker -- one of the purest putters in the world -- missed it and made bogey, falling 1-down heading into the 18th. That meant Kaymer only had to halve the 18th to win the Ryder Cup. Stricker found the back of the green from the fairway, but Stricker was closer from a fairway bunker. Stricker, after a lengthy read, missed the putt well to the left, and Kaymer two-putted to retain the Cup. Stricker didn't make a single birdie over the final eight holes, making three bogeys instead.

In the end, Europe simply made the big shots -- think of Ian Poulter's incredible approach from the edge of the gallery on 18, Rose's putts on 17 and 18, and Kaymer on 18 -- and the United States simply couldn't seal the deal.

Luke Donald records the first point of the day

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Luke Donald -- the hometown boy playing for the road team -- did exactly what European captain Jose Maria Olazabal needed him to do: Put a point on the board early.

"It was a big honor for me, that (Olazabal) had that trust in me," Donald said. "It means a lot to go out and lead the team."

Donald knocked off Bubba Watson in the first singles match of Ryder Cup Sunday, winning 2&1. It looked like it would be easy, but it wound up being anything but. Donald was pin-hunting all day, making six birdies, and had a chance to close out Watson 5&4, but he missed a short eagle putt on No. 14. He then missed a short birdie putt on No. 15 -- which, again, would have won the match -- to give Watson hope. Then, Watson chipped in on No. 16, sending the crowd into a tizzy and giving him a realistic chance of stealing half a point from Donald.

Donald's tee shot on the par-3 16th sailed over the green and into the bunker, but the Northwestern grad showed why he's regarded as the best bunker player in the world, knocking it to within two feet to clinch the match and cut the Americans' lead to 10-7.

"I don't know what I would have done going down 18, the nerves were starting to build and Bubba was putting serious pressure on me," Donald said. "You expect that at this level. ... It's nice to get the first point for Europe."

Those mood swings have been typical of a wild Sunday at Medinah. Flags have been going up and coming down on the leaderboard all day, as the massive crowd has been alternately silent and raucous. At 1 p.m. (that's Central time, Rory McIlroy), the U.S. led in just one of the 10 matches on the course. At 1:15 p.m., there were four U.S. flags on the board against just three European ones. At 1:25, Europe led four of the first five matches. At 2:05, the second, third and fourth matches were all square. At 2:15, as Watson made his charge on Donald, Europe led just three of 12 matches.


Rory McIlroy almost misses his Ryder Cup tee time

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Maybe Rory McIlroy needs to invest in a better alarm clock. Or just hire a personal time assistant.

The world's top-ranked golfer arrived at Medinah barely 10 minutes before his scheduled tee time against Keegan Bradley, the third match of the day at the Ryder Cup. NBC reported that McIlroy got his time zones mixed up, and thought he was teeing off an hour later than he actually was. McIlroy got a police escort to the course -- a necessity given the traffic around Medinah this morning -- and was in the parking lot with hardly any time to spare before his 11:25 a.m. tee time.

McIlroy got to the tee just in time -- to the cheers of a crowd that was clued in to the situation -- took several practice swings (no time for the range), and missed the fairway, off to the right. His approach out of the rough came up short, but he almost holed out his chip, settling for a tap-in par and a halve with Bradley.

"We didn't have that in mind," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "All of a sudden we realized that Rory was not here. We started to look for him and nobody knew."

McIlroy famously overslept during a nap before the final round of the PGA Championship this year, arriving at Kiawah Island a mere 30 minutes before his tee time. That worked out pretty well for the Northern Irishman, as he shot a 6-under 66 to win his second major by eight strokes.

Europe sending its best out early in Ryder Cup singles

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Jose Maria Olazabal isn't messing around in today's singles matches at the Ryder Cup.

Facing a 10-6 deficit going into today's final 12 matches, the European captain is sending out some of his biggest guns early in an effort to get back in the game. It's a page out of Ben Crenshaw's playbook in 1999 at Brookline, when he sent out his hottest players early. That year, the Americans -- needing 8.5 out of a possible 12 points -- won the first seven matches of the day, as Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton, David Duval, Tiger Woods, and Steve Pate immediately seized the momentum for the Americans.

Olazabal remembers that well, as he was playing Justin Leonard, who secured the Cup-clinching half-point.

When asked what his lasting memories of 1999 were, Olazabal said: "All the players after the matches were over in the locker room, and seeing I would say more than half of the players crying all together there, me included."

So Olazabal is sending out world No. 3 Luke Donald first (vs. Bubba Watson), red-hot Ian Poulter second (vs. Webb Simpson), and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy third (vs. Keegan Bradley).

"Regarding the pairings, obviously we couldn't hide anything," Olazabal said. "We are trailing four points. We have to put the players that are playing well out there. We knew that they would know that."

Of course, Love, the American captain, is trying to close out the Cup early. Watson, Simpson, Bradley and Phil Mickelson (fourth, vs. Justin Rose) are a combined 5-1 over the first two days of play.

"At the end of the day, if we want to win this match, we have take their big guns down," Olazabal said.

Love has Steve Stricker (vs. Martin Kaymer) and Tiger Woods (vs. Francesco Molinari) in the final two matches.

"It's hard to decide who the best six or the best eight players on your team are, and it doesn't really matter which ones you put in which order because everybody is playing so well," Love said. "Individually, I wouldn't want to play anybody on our side, so we didn't really try to match up."

Love said one reason he put Woods at the end is he's "used to teeing off at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon; that's kind of his usual time on weekend." He also wanted a strong anchor at the end, just in case.

"I needed some stability, I think, in different spots," Love said. "You needed guys like Tiger and Strick down towards the end."

Here are the full pairings:
11:03 a.m.: Bubba Watson vs. Luke Donald
11:14 a.m.: Webb Simpson vs. Ian Poulter
11:25 a.m.: Keegan Bradley vs. Rory McIlroy
11:36 a.m.: Phil Mickelson vs. Justin Rose
11:47 a.m.: Brandt Snedeker vs. Paul Lawrie
11:58 a.m.: Dustin Johnson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts
12:09 p.m.: Zach Johnson vs. Graeme McDowell
12:20 p.m.: Jim Furyk vs. Sergio Garcia
12:31 p.m.: Jason Dufner vs. Peter Hanson
12:42 p.m.: Matt Kuchar vs. Lee Westwood
12:53 p.m.: Steve Stricker vs. Martin Kaymer
1:04 p.m.: Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari

GoVision makes its presence felt at Ryder Cup

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Chris Curtis, CEO of GoVision, provides mobile LED technology for major events around the country.

But Curtis is thrilled to be at the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.

"It's been awesome. Being in the event business, we've done everything," said Curtis, who is based in Texas. "But, the Ryder Cup probably is my favorite so to be a part of it is very exciting."

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The 40,000 fans at the Ryder Cup each day certainly have appreciated GoVision's impact at the event. The massive screens -- there are over 5 million pixels on the course -- are sprinkled throughout the course and many congregate around them for updates and highlights.

GoVision screens were also a key part of the opening ceremonies Thursday evening.

The coolest location is the screen in the water, on the 15th hole.

The U.S. domination continues, as Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson won 5 & 4 over Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari in the first completed match of the Saturday afternoon session.


The victory gave the U.S. Ryder Cup team a 9-4 advantage.


Watson and Simpson rebounded after narrowly losing to Rose and Ian Poulter in the morning match, one up. 

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After a miserable morning, Simpson caught fire in the afternoon with seven birdies. Watson did his part as well, with birdies on two par 5s. 


"I'm the coach," Watson told NBC Sports immediately after the afternoon match. "Webb was a little anxious [in the morning]. We had great opportunities. There were chances we had, and we didn't make them."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was all smiles upon arriving at Medinah Country Club Saturday afternoon.


"This is a great event. First of all, I just came from the Gourmet Cuisine; Chicago is the culinary capital. We are now this weekend the sporting capital with this event," Emanuel said. "And everyone that I've run into, from out of town, is raving about the city - how beautiful it looks, they had no idea. 


"Obviously, the executive order on the weather worked. 74, slight breeze. It's amazing how those executive orders work."

Emanuel isn't much of a golfer, unlike his younger brother, Ari, a powerful Hollywood agent who is a member at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. But, Rahm Emanuel was thankful to the PGA of America and other organizations affiliated with the Ryder Cup for engaging Chicago's youth in the event.


"They have been great with the kids from the city of Chicago," he said. "Obviously kids from all over, but particularly working with us... making sure kids have access to this event and beyond it.


"I can't thank them enough for making sure everyone from the city of Chicago gets to participate, not just those at the hotels and restaurants."

U.S. Ryder Cup team takes commanding 8-4 lead

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If not for one of the best European teams in recent memory, Saturday morning would have been a complete disaster for the visitors. 

Justin Rose and Ian Poulter eked out a one-up winning, struggling throughout their match to put away Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. In fact, Simpson played as poorly as I've witnessed, up close, in quite some time, missing putts, yanking drives and shanking shots around the green. 

All told, it wasn't a pretty round for either side. 

On the back nine, only one hole even featured a birdie, and both teams did that on the 11th. Otherwise, there were bogeys and pars galore. 

"It was a very intense match right from that first tee shot," Poulter said. "It was really important to come out on top of that match. 

"A win is a win."

Added Rose, "We won ugly today."
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That's more than their teammates can say.

Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were beaten 7 & 6 by Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, only the third time any Ryder Cup team has won by such a massive margin.

Meanwhile, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson continued their strong play, cooling off Nicolas Colsaerts, who partnered with Sergio Garcia, with a 2 & 1 win.

The most surprising result, though, was Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker winning one up over the fearsome Irish duo of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Furkyk, a captain's pick, carried the American team down the stretch with some clutch shots.

The afternoon pairings are just going off but here's the list:

* Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar vs. Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie

* Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson vs. Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose

* Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker vs. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald

* Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson vs. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter
On Friday, during a break at Medinah Country Club, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank explained all the reasons why golf is such a great outlet.

"I love playing. I love getting out. I love being out. I love the camaraderie, the social aspect of it," Blank told the Sun-Times. "You want to remove yourself from everything else, and walk around on beautiful golf course like this. It's a game you never conquer; I don't care if you're Phil or Tiger, or anybody. 

"You're just never going to conquer it, which I like, by nature."
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Blank is probably most recognizable as the co-founder of Home Depot and the owner of the Falcons, a franchise that's currently 3-0 and boasts an envious core that includes president Rich McKay, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. 

But, Blank applied the same rationale for taking over the PGA Tour Superstores as he did in buying the Falcons back in 2002.

"I was a season ticket holder of the Falcons when I retired in 2001. I'd go to the game and watch the up and down seasons. I said, 'I actually can sit here for the next 20 years of my life and complain about this team or actually try to buy it and fix it," Blank said. "With this business, it was the same mentality. I invested a lot and wasn't involved. I said there were so many things that could be done to fix it."

Blank is proud of the Superstores now, two of which opened in the Chicago area, one in Lombard and another Downers Grove. His golf stores are distinctive in that they're massive, usually at least 50,000 square feet, with a wide selection of apparel, equipment as well as services.

"I think we built a unique model in golf retailing today in America," Blank said. "The stores are doing extraordinary well."
Davis Love III insisted he never intended to have any of his players compete in every Ryder Cup match.

"It's a big, long golf course. It's tough," Love said of Medinah Country Club. "We don't want guys to be worn out."

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career, Tiger Woods will not play in a session, shelved for the Saturday morning matches.

That isn't wholly surprising since he and Steve Stricker lost both matches on Friday, although the afternoon one was more understandable. Nicolas Colsaerts, making his Ryder Cup debut, made eight birdies and an eagle to single-handedly edge Stricker and Woods. 

"We need Tiger and Steve in the afternoon," Davis said, referring to Saturday. "We need Tiger and Steve on Sunday."
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With a 5-3 advantage after the opening day, Love's decision to play Woods Friday afternoon may pay dividends later. He was terrible in the morning, spraying shots everywhere. But, after a short visit with his swing coach Sean Foley, Woods made adjustments for the afternoon. He straightened out his drive, he sunk some putts, and, despite Colsaerts' hot hand, nearly stole 1/2 a point on the 18th.

"Yeah, Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I've ever seen," Woods said. "We had a chance to all square on the last hole, and I missed it."

The hot pairing for the U.S. was Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. They won both matches, taking out a couple of Euro's top teams, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia in the morning (4 & 3) and Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (2 & 1) in the afternoon. 

"We had a lot of fun," Mickelson said. "We had a good time and we played well, and it was really fun for me to play with Keegan. He's just got a lot of great energy. He hits a lot of great shots and he drives the ball as well as I've ever seen a person drive it.

"Alternate shot was my favorite format because I got to hit the next shot. Best ball, I had to play my own drive, which wasn't as fun. We made some putts and we were able to walk away with two wins over two really tough teams."

Here is the Saturday match ups: 

7:20 a.m. -- Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter

7:35 a.m. -- Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson vs. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald

7:50 a.m. -- Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia

8:05 a.m. -- Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker vs. Rory McIlroy

Poulter shines, then sits for European team

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Ian Poulter joined Justin Rose to knock off the Americans' anchor squad of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the final morning foursomes match. Poulter made a couple of big putts -- including ones at 14 and 16 -- to help put away the Americans 2 & 1. But when European captain Jose Maria Olazabal's afternoon pairings were revealed, Poulter -- a fiery competitor who is now 9-3 in his Ryder Cup career -- wasn't on the list.

Poulter was asked if he was surprised that he was sitting out, yet Woods -- who struggled all morning -- was being sent out again by American captain Davis Love III.

"Yeah, but he's Tiger Woods," Poulter said.

But Poulter couldn't complain about his day. Not after beating Woods.

"Delighted to finish that match off," he said. "I saw it yesterday when -- well, listening to it on stage yetserday, announcing Tiger and Stricker, kind of a little bit of a wry smile. Tiger has been two of my three defeats in this Ryder Cup format, and Justin and I were pretty pumped to get out there and kind of get that point on the board."

Every player on both teams played at least one match on Friday. For the Americans, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson sat out the afternoon, while Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, and Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar played. For the Europeans, Ryder Cup stalwarts Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Poulter, along with Francesco Molinari, sat out the afternoon to make room for Paul Lawrie, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Nicolas Colsaerts.


            ``Here we go, Baby! Here we go!'' Michael Jordan said as he stood behind the 16th green, wearing a six-championship grin.

            A huge Ryder Cup fan, the Bulls legend was pumped up for good reason.

            Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley had just closed out Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, who had been 4-0 together, to give Team USA first blood at Medinah.

            And Jim Furyk had just struck a terrific shot to set up a birdie putt that would pull Furyk and Brad Snedeker into a tie with Rory McIlroy and Graem McDowell, Europe's premier tandem.

            The normally placid Furyk, who had nearly driven the 15th green while the Euros landed in the water, gave a big fist-pump from the fairway after his bigshot on No. 16. The birdie putt became moot. McDowell's 16th hole had come up short, and even a good sand shot from McIlroy, McDowell couldn't convert the par putt.

            After blowing a three-up lead, the two Northern Irishmen prevailed, winning the match one-up when the U.S. pair bogeyed No. 18 off an errant drive by Snedeker.

            ``That match to me just personifies the Ryder Cup,'' McDowell said.  ``Myself and Rory played some great golf to go 3 up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all square coming down the last two holes.'' 

            But Team USA made its point in the four morning alternate shot matches, which had looked favorable for Team Europe.

            A 2-2 push in the morning was a good showing for Team USA for several reasons.

            Not only did the Americans not lose ground. The pairing of Mickelson and Bradley looks like it's going to be a strong one this weekend. Team USA captain Davis Love III showed his faith by sending them out as his second best-ball tandem Friday afternoon.

            ``[Bradley] was really fired up,'' Mickelson said. ``He played some of the best golf. To be his partner was an awesome experience.  I love, love playing with this man.  He's just so fun, loves the game and plays with such excitement--and man, can he roll the rock.''

            Another plus: While enigmatic American star Tiger Woods was all over the course in losing his morning round 2 and 1 with partner Steve Stricker to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, Furyk and Snedeker served notice that the Americans aren't going to be intimidated by Euro star Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 1 ranked player.

            McIlroy lived up to his billing, chipping in from behind the fourth green and striking a variety of shots well, especially around the greens, in his first Ryder Cup before a hostile crowd.

            Things got off on a testy note when Furyk didn't want McDowell to get relief from a sprinkler head on the fringe of the first green. Rules officials sided with Furyk.           

            But the spirit of competition generally remained a friendely rivalry. While waiting for Furyk's second shot on No. 18, a delicate punch out of the woods, Michael Jordan chatted amiably with Luke Donald in the fairway.

 


Brandt Snedeker will be thinking about his Friday morning tee shot on No. 18 for a long, long time. Certainly until tomorrow, at least, since he's been benched for the afternoon fourball matches, with the United States and Europe tied at 2-2.

After the American duo of Snedeker and Jim Furyk came all the way back from 3-down through 12 to all-square after 16, Snedeker stood at the 18th tee still tied with the Europeans' marquee pairing of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. But Snedeker hit an awful tee shot, deep into the woods, leaving Furyk with no shot at the green. McDowell calmly sank a 5-footer for par to win the hole and the match 1-up, getting the Europeans on the board following the win by Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson over Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia.

"You know, fortunately for us, Brandt didn't hit the best tee shot on the last and we took advantage," McIlroy said.

McDowell had some iffy shots down the stretch -- including a water ball on the always-exciting driveable 15th -- but as he always seems to, he came through with the clutch putts when he needed to.

"That match to me just personifies the Ryder Cup," McDowell said. "Myself and Rory played some great golf to go 3-up, and then you're playing against two very gutsy players who clawed their way back to all-square coming down the last two holes."

That match tied the score at 1-1, but the Americans quickly retook the lead 2-1 when Jason Dufner holed out a short par putt on 16 as he and Zach Johnson closed out a struggling Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari 3 & 2.

The Europeans led every match after seven holes, but the Americans turned it on during the back nine.

"I noticed the board, I'm not going to lie to you," Johnson said. "I also noticed it was early in the match. This is not a sprint by any means, it's a marathon."

In the final match of the morning, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose knocked off the Americans' familiar pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, 2 & 1. The Americans bogeyed four holes between Nos. 6 and 12, and Woods struggled all morning. He got a big break on No. 15 -- yep, that hole again -- when his tee shot caromed off a tree and nearly up to the green, allowing the Americans to birdie and get within two holes with three to go. But both teams parred 16 and 17, giving Europe the win and a 2-2 tie heading into the afternoon fourball matches.

Afternoon Ryder Cup pairings revealed

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Here are the afternoon pairings for fourball (best ball)

12:05 p.m.: Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson vs. Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson

12:20 p.m. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley vs. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell

12:35 p.m.Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar vs. Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer

12:50 p.m. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker vs. Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts

That means Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari will sit for the Europeans, while Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk will sit for the Americans.

Keegan Bradley closes out Donald and Garcia

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Against one of the most successful pairings in Ryder Cup history, Keegan Bradley certainly didn't look like a rookie.

Bradley drilled a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 15 to close out the European duo of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia in the first match of the 2012 Ryder Cup. His celebration was pure Ryder Cup excitement -- a few fist pumps, a big embrace from partner Phil Mickelson (who let out a WHOOO of his own) as the crowd erupted. Even Bradley's caddie waved the pin around like an Olympian with a flag. You don't see that at the Transitions.

"He played some of the best golf and to be his partner was an awesome experience," Mickelson said of Bradley. "I love, love playing with this man. He's just so fun, loves the game and plays with such excitement and man, can he roll the rock."

The match was all square after 11 holes, but Mickelson and Bradley won four straight holes to win the match 4 & 3 -- the Euros bogeyed 12, the Americans birdied 13, the Euros bogeyed 14 (Garcia missed a 4-footer for par that would have halved the hole) and Bradley birdied 15 (after Donald pulled his drive left, and Garcia flubbed a chip shot short of the green).

Neither Garcia nor Donald had ever lost a foursomes match in their illustrious Ryder Cup careers.

"It was one of the most memorable days of my life so far," Bradley said.

Ryder Cup gets heated early

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It didn't take long for the Ryder Cup to get testy.

The first matchup in the morning foursomes (alternate shot) had a nearly 10-minute delay off the green on the par-3 second hole, as Graeme McDowell (paired with Rory McIlroy) and Jim Furyk (paired with Brandt Snedeker) had a rather stern discussion about whether a sprinkler head was interfering with McDowell's swing. McDowell's ball was a couple of inches in front of the sprinkler head, and he sought relief, while Furyk didn't deem it necessary. A big reason for that? A drop likely would have landed McDowell on the green, meaning he could putt instead of chip.

At one point during the interminable wait, one fan -- very close to the TV and radio microphones -- yelled at McDowell and McIlroy: "Hit a better tee shot next time!"

Eventually, chief rules official David Price came over -- to a mock ovation from the impatient crowd -- and ruled against McDowell. McDowell chipped, McIlroy missed the par putt and the United States won the hole.

But the duo from Northern Ireland responded in a big way, parring the third hole, then making birdie on six of the next seven holes, eventually taking a 3-up lead on No. 11.

Pairings for Ryder Cup start

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Here are the pairings for the start of the Ryder Cup at Medinah.

Friday morning matches, alternate shot

            EUROPE                        USA

1.  McIlroy-McDowell            Furyk-Snedeker

2. Donald-Garcia                        Mickelson-Bradley

3. Westwood-Molinari            Dufner-Zach Johnson

4. Poulter-Rose                        Stricker-Woods

 

 

Spent a good chunk of the morning following Phil MIckelson and Keegan Bradley practicing on the back nine.
Favorite moment: Keegan two-putts for birdie on the 14th hole, which is listed at 609 yards. Then he turns to Phil who had come up short on a green-side bunker shot, and rubs his thumb against two fingers in a ``show me the money'' gesture.
Phil was spraying a lot of tee shots; Keegan tended to stripe things down the middle. Both were great with the galleries.
But it'll be a lot different atmosphere come Friday morning, when it's game on. 

THE PING PONG KING:
With media grasping for angles, the Ping-Pong matches of Team USA have been getting a lot of attention. Matt Kuchar has been crowned the king of table tennis.
HIs thoughts on Ping Pong when asked to handicap his game. . . 

 ``Maybe a 1 or a 2 handicap. Certainly can't compete with the top level players, but a good player, and yeah, on our team I'd be the best player.

``But we have some great matches, games to 11, games to 21. There can be some fun runs and guys can get ahead. It's a game that if a guy makes a run, he can start talking smack.

``It's been a fun bonding, because there is that ability to kind of go out and be boys and kind of feel like you're in the locker room while you're competing against each other.

``And then it's also fun; the doubles might be the most fun where you're, again, part of a team, where you're helping out your partner and kind of going at it in a team atmosphere.''


Northwestern coach's loyalty with former player

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Longtime Northwestern men's golf coach Pat Goss grew up in the area, and he lives in Evanston with his family.

But Goss, one of Golf Magazine's "Top 100 Teachers in America," doesn't mask his rooting interest this weekend in the Ryder Cup.

"I don't find my loyalty tough this week. It's pretty simple: I only have one person I cheer for in this whole event and that's Luke Donald," Goss said. "That's where my interest lay. I know what this event means to him and his career for the European team, so my heart is in making sure Luke Donald plays his best golf."

One of the world's top players, Luke Donald was a four-time All-American at Northwestern. But Donald is a native of England, and he's a key member of the European team that's dominated the U.S. at the Ryder Cup in recent memory. And while some top players from Europe do establish roots in the United States, Donald has maintained a strong presence in the Chicago area, in part, because of Goss.

"As soon as I met him and got to know him, I had a great ease with him," Donald told me. "I felt what he was teaching me were the right things. I just feel very comfortable around him.

"I think he's one of the best short-game teachers in the world, and he's certainly helped my game because of that."

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Weather much better than a year ago

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Mother Nature has smiled on Chicago this week, with day-time temperatures from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. For the three rounds of the Ryder Cup, the forecast calls for mostly sunny and temperatures right around 70 degrees.


What a difference a year makes.


I remember being at the Trump Tower a year ago, when the Ryder Cup captains teed off from the 16th floor and tried to land the ball onto a barge on the Chicago River 220 yards away. It was chilly, rainy and there was a wind advisory a day or two later.

Trump Tower Ryder Cup.jpg

"We were here last year, and thank goodness we didn't play that week," said Allen Wronowski, the president of the PGA of America. "We had eight inches of rain, and monsoon wind and freezing weather."


One never knows what the weather will be like here. But, with a worldwide audience preparing to turn their attention to Chicago and the Ryder Cup, we can all be thankful that the weather won't be a problem. 

Over the last 15 years, no single golfer has dominated more than Tiger Woods.

He's got the hardware to back it up: 14 major championships, 74 PGA Tour titles and a boatload of other victories. 

But Woods has been on just one winning Ryder Cup team, missing out in 2008, when the U.S. won at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, because of a knee injury.

On Tuesday, Woods didn't hide from his 13-14-2 Ryder Cup record.

"Certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for," Woods said. "I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn't do that.  Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling."

Tiger Woods.jpg

Woods has played in every match in the six Ryder Cups he's participated in, and U.S. captain Davis Love III suggested Tuesday he'll defer to his top player to determine if he'll sit out. But Love defended Woods' Ryder Cup record, noting that being around .500 means "you're pretty dang good."

"I think it's tough to win, first of all," Love said. "Tiger can play great and his partner not play well, or the other team play extremely well. I think there's probably a lot of times in a lot of match play tournaments where it's just a matter of who you're up against. 

"I know I messed Tiger up a couple times, so I'm part of his problem," Love jokingly said.

Ryder Cup participants gush about Chicago

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Tiger Woods was born in California, and he lives in Florida, but he has a special place in his heart for Chicago.

"I've always loved coming here. I enjoy playing in Chicago and, for some reason, I've just had a lot of success here," he said. "I don't know what it is. But I seem to be very, very comfortable here."

Seven of his Tour victories have come in the area, including the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006 at Medinah Country Club.

Woods trumpeted that Chicago is a "great sporting town," rattling off the local professional franchises... except the Bears.

"And for us to come in here and be part of a U.S. Team I think is just going to add to that," he said. "We are going to have a great atmosphere here, and it's going to be a lot of fun."
Chicago Skyline.jpg
U.S. captain Davis Love III said he expects the noise on the first tee Friday to surprise the players.

"Chicago is an incredible sports town, and they are going to be fired up," Love said. "It's going to be  it's an incredible, big golf course and a big stage, and I think the first tee could be the loudest any of these guys have ever seen to start off a golf tournament. 

"So I expect a lot of passion."

Jim Furyk noted how European fans have their chants and songs, but he noted, "I know that 37,000 Americans can drown out 3,000 Europeans if they want to."

Ryder Cup Captains arrive at Medinah

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After months and months of planning, team-building and networking, Ryder Cup captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III arrived at Medinah Country Club Monday afternoon and prepared to welcome their players. 

"It's been a long two-year journey for us but it really has been a lot of fun," Love said. "I can't tell you how many moments I've had in the last week or two that it really hit me how much fun it is and how exciting it is and what an honor it is."
Ryder Cup 9:24.jpg
Olazabal traveled from London with three of his players, a light number since many of them are based in the United States. But players began arriving Monday, and they'll be in place to begin interviews and practice rounds Tuesday.

"This is a huge week for our game and for all of us," Olazabal said. "I hope we will have a great time." 

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