Saturday, October 01, 2016

Europeans lose foursomes 4-0 but win the four-balls 3-1

U.S. leads 5-3 at Ryder Cup after magical, roller-coaster Day 1

Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth got the electricity going from the start Friday at the Ryder Cup.
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth got the electricity going from the start Friday at the Ryder Cup. (Getty Images)
CHASKA, Minnesota — It was August at the Travelers Championship when a man’s thoughts wandered ahead. “I can’t wait for the Ryder Cup,” said Aussie Geoff Ogilvy.
It was September at the Deutsche Bank Championship when another Australian went into drift mode. “I love the Ryder Cup,” said Adam Scott. “I love to see guys cook under pressure.”
Aussies, both of them, and thus ineligible for the Ryder Cup. Yet Ogilvy and Scott are in synch with so many of us who’ll never stand in the arena, but cherish those occasions when we get to watch it play out on stage.
Yes, this biennial team competition has a mystical pull on us and Friday was the latest chapter that explains why. It was a day that began with a birdie at the first hole by the lead-off American group (Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed) and concluded with the only eagle of the day at the 16th by the last European pairing of the day (Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters).
But, oh, it wasn’t just any eagle, my friend. No, sir, it was a definitive emphatic one. “I wanted to put an exclamation point on that session for us,” said McIlroy of his 20-footer that had been set up by a frozen rope of a 4-iron from 226 yards.
The putt dropped and so did McIlroy’s guard as he took a few bows and let out a scream to the heavens, victorious by 3 and 2 over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Damn, such joy, which is what Jim Furyk meant when he said a few weeks ago “that you’ll see guys do things in the Ryder Cup that you never see them do.”
As for the 10 1/2 hours in between Reed’s opening birdie and McIlroy’s closing eagle, there were a swing of emotions that only the Ryder Cup can bring. There were fears of a blowout given the Americans’ 4-0 sweep in foursomes (one match ended at 14, two at 16, just one went to 18), then a stunning shift of momentum as the Euros stormed to victory in three of four four-ball games in the afternoon.
Oh, there were those hallmarks that keep us feeding off our love of the Ryder Cup.
There was a crowd McIlroy called “hostile” (old story) and there were nervous rookies who didn’t handle the pressure (Andy Sullivan’s water ball at the par-3 17th put he and McIlroy in the foursomes loss column to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler).
There were unsung first-timers who shined (Rafa Cabrera-Bello teamed with Sergio Garcia for an afternoon four-ball win) and veterans who couldn’t fight through their woes (Lee Westwood struggled mightily in a foursomes loss with Pieters).
There was a first tee enveloped in atmosphere and football chants and costumes that would on any other occasion lead to one’s arrest and there were contentious moments that made you take note (McIlroy contends he innocently forgot to shake Johnson’s hand after their four-ball game).
There were horrific shots under pressure (Mickelson drove out of bounds at the sixth, Westwood into the water at the seventh) and a string of lasers shots by a ball-striking maestro (Henrik Stenson made three straight birdies, five in all and teamed with Rose to shoot 9 under for 14 holes in a four-ball demolition of Spieth and Reed).
But above all, there was a throwback to yesteryear, a tribute to a hero who united us all in the love of golf, and a Ryder Cup opening that had us choking back tears before letting out screams.
When the curtain rose on the 41st Ryder Cup, what was positioned on the first tee was a priceless relic. It was the golf bag used by Arnold Palmer when he was captain of the 1975 Ryder Cup team that hosted Great Britain and Ireland at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
On Monday, the day of Palmer’s funeral in Latrobe, Doc Giffin selected the bag out of Palmer’s barn and had it shipped to the PGA of America at Hazeltine. Officials knew they were getting a Palmer golf bag, but didn’t know it was the 1975 one.
Such brilliant symmetry on yet another pulsating day of Ryder Cup drama because when the Americans won the morning foursomes, 4-0, it was the first shut-out in the first session since . . . you guessed it, 1975.
Such magic, which is why we love the Ryder Cup.



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