It’s only Day 1, but……
Sure enough, it is only the first day of the Ryder Cup, but it was a huge day for the American team.
The US squad leads 5 ½ points to the Europeans 2 ½ points and the truth be told it could have been much worse for the Euros. Jim Furyk and hometown hero, Kenny Perry had a two hole lead with two to play but lost the 17th. and 18th. holes to halve their match.
The “Good Old Boy” team of J.B. Holmes and Boo Weekley played some magnificent golf in their afternoon match against Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen but both Holmes and Weekley hit their tee shots in the water to lose the 18th and come out with only a half point instead of the full point they would have received for a victory. Is there a more “likeable” golfer on this planet than Boo?
But that is being pretty picky, because if you had told anyone on the underdog US team that they would have the lead after the first day, they would have been ecstatic.
Surely the Europeans have dominated the Ryder Cup for the last 20 years but the main reason for that dominance is the success that their teams have enjoyed on the first two days of the competition, which is always the team matches (this is the first Ryder Cup since 1991 that the US team led after the morning matches). Traditionally the Americans have been the more powerful force on the last day which is 12 singles matches.
The Ryder Cup has had some historically fantastic pairings; Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal; Davis Love and Fred Couples; Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke come immediately to mind. A new superstar pairing was born today. Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim, who led off the morning matches with a compelling battle against two of the European’s best; Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.
Three down with six holes to play, the American’s then won the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes to stage a stirring comeback. While both teams had opportunities in the last three holes, a tie was a fitting result.
In their afternoon match, Mickelson and Kim were again 3 down only to rally again and defeat Harrington and fellow Irishman, Graeme McDowell, 2 up.
An even more successful tandem were Justin Leonard (the hero from Brookline where the US last won the Cup) and Ryder Cup rookie, Hunter Mahan. The “Texas two-some” won both of their matches to finish with a 2-0 record on the day and played some impeccable golf.
As good as Leonard and Mahan were though, the Mickelson/Kim pairing may be one we see for many years to come. When did Mickelson ever look like he was having so much fun, on the golf course? There were more high-fives from this tandem than at an NBA game and they are the perfect match of thinker (Mickelson) and young gun (Kim).
There is an electric chemistry to this partnership which is so essential to this unique team format.
“I think we are going to be pretty tough to beat,” Kim said. “We are having a great time out there, and when you’re having a great time you’re going to play good golf.”
Saturday promises to be just as much fun.