MEDINAH, Ill. – Keegan Bradley made Friday at the Ryder Cup feel like the best day of his life, and it wasn’t too shabby for the rest of the Americans.
Bradley led a strong performance by rookies on both teams at Medinah by teaming with Phil Mickelson for two wins against Europe’s best two partnerships. Even with Tiger Woods getting shut out on opening day for the fourth time, the United States took a big step toward regaining the Cup with a 5-3 lead.
Next up for Woods is a session on the sideline.
Sticking to his plan of not wanting his players worn out by the end of the week, U.S. captain Davis Love III decided to bench Woods for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, ending his streak of playing 31 consecutive matches.
As for Bradley, his energy is boundless.
Mickelson took Bradley under his wing last year for a series of money games at the majors to prepare the 26-year-old from New England for a stage like this. And did he ever deliver. He was into every shot, cocking his head to the side to read putts, charging up the gallery and Mickelson in a command performance.
“This is literally what I’ve dreamt about since I was a little kid,” Bradley said. “I got to do it next to my idol all day.”
Bradley holed a 25-foot birdie putt in morning foursomes to hand Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia their first loss in Ryder Cup foursomes. Next up were Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and the Americans won the first three holes. Mickelson wasn’t there only for support. Right when Europe was trying to rally, the four-time major champion closed it out with a 7-iron to 2 feet that was conceded for birdie.
“Phil is a smart guy,” Love said. “He knows how to pick partners.”
It was a day Bradley didn’t want to end.
“Oh, baby, I wish we could go 36 more,” Bradley said.
He wasn’t the only rookie to shine on a mild day in the Chicago suburbs. Nicolas Colsaerts, the 29-year-old from Belgium, helped Europe avoid getting shut out in afternoon fourballs by single-handedly taking down Woods and Steve Stricker.
Colsaerts made eight birdies and an eagle – a 10-under 62 if he was keeping score on his own. He teamed with Lee Westwood, who was just along for this amazing ride for a 1-up victory that ended 11 hours of enormous cheers and plenty of American red on the leaderboard.
“I don’t think there has ever been a better debut than that,” Westwood said.
Woods and Stricker also lost to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in morning foursomes, making this the fourth time in the seven Ryder Cups that Woods has played that he lost both matches on the opening day.
“We ran into a guy who made everything today,” Woods said of Colsaerts. “I don’t know what he shot. He was like 7 under through 10. I quit counting after that.”
Love said he told Woods and Stricker they would be sitting out the foursomes matches this morning.