Ryder Cup Day 2
Day Two of the Ryder Cup started well for the Americans, but the European dominance of the Foursome competition might have sealed our fate. The morning Four-Ball ended up 2 ½ to 1 ½ in favor of the US, but the Ian Poulter pitch in on 16 was a killer. He hadn’t played well or contributed up to that point. Then he pitches in on a shot that most likely you couldn’t duplicate with a snag bag full of balls. Poulter is a player, especially in Ryder Cup competition, who you love to hate. I like him for his competitiveness and sense of the dramatic. He is a bit off form at the moment, but he mustered the right stuff at the right time. That half point might be very important.
The Four-Ball match between Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar verses Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson might have been the best played match in modern Ryder Cup competition. Rose and Stenson were eleven under par through 16 holes with Watson and Kuchar almost matching the European birdies. They made nine birdies and still fell short.
Furyk and Mahan were solid in their victory and you expected that would carry forward in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that didn’t. Reed and Spieth continued their stellar play with another convincing rout of Bjorn and Kaymer. Going into the Foursome matches things were looking up for the US.
On paper the first match, which sets the tone for all others, looked like an American advantage. Two solid straight drivers with good short games, against a rookie and a great player, who doesn’t possess the best of short games. Wrong, Westwood was good enough around the green and Donaldson made all the critical putts. This was a match that was a must and the Europeans won it with a solid effort.
Alternate shot is a tough format, because you rarely get into a rhythm and many times you are thinking not to hit a bad shot for you partner. Furyk and Mahan looked like they had to be perfect and didn’t play freely. Furyk mishit three short wedge shots around the green that he just doesn’t do. Subconsciously, I think he felt he needed them to be near perfect so Mahan wouldn’t have tough next putts. Mahan is generally a great ball striker, but in pressure situations, he gets too mechanical and doesn’t feel his shots.
The pairing of Walker and Fowler matched two talented aggressive players. They were wonderful in their other three very competitive matches. They had a letdown against two players on top of their games. I expect both to play very well in tomorrow’s singles competition.
In the Spieth and Reed match, Rose and Kaymer gave them all the opportunities to win. Both Spieth and Reed made some untimely errors in judgment that left their partner in awkward situations. Spieth’s poor lag putt on 15 was a killer that gave the Europeans hope and only a one down deficit. Then Reed misses a 2 foot tap-in on 16 and the match is even. Europeans bogey 17 (Spieth did hit a great shot to within 10 feet for birdie) to go one up. 18 was unfortunate for the American’s, since both teams hit the same type of shot into the right side bunker. Europe had a good lie and the American’s didn’t. That’s golf.
So we have a 10 to 6 lead for the European’s. The American’s lost at Medinah in 2012, when they took the same advantage into the singles competition. The European’s won the first four matches and the tide was turned. The US needs that same type of play from their leadoff players. That will be a tall order, because Captain Paul McGinley of the European side has placed his four best players in the first four positions. In this order we have McDowell, Stenson, McIlroy, and Rose. We counter with Spieth, Reed, Fowler, and Mahan. The outcome will be determined quickly.
Doesn’t look good, but that’s why you play the game. Anything can happen and usually does.