Moments after Bradley poured in an 18-foot birdie putt on the second hole Friday morning, Mickelson stood off to the side of the tee box to watch Bradley prepare to smash another drive. He nodded in the direction of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who had never lost a foursomes match.
Mickelson grinned and said, “They’re not going to know what hit them.”
Turns out he wasn’t just talking about one match. Bradley made a 25-foot birdie putt to win the opening match on the 15th hole. Then, Bradley and Mickelson ganged up on Europe’s top tandem of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, winning three straight holes out of the box and closing them out when Mickelson hit a 7-iron to 2 feet on the 17th hole at Medinah.
It set the tone for a day filled with endless cheering and plenty of American red on the scoreboard, giving the U.S. team a 5-3 lead over Europe despite Tiger Woods getting shut out on opening day for the fourth time in the Ryder Cup.
“It could be the best day of my life,” Bradley said.
Saturday figures to be a strange day for Woods in the Ryder Cup — his first time in uniform without a tee time. Sticking to his plan, U.S. captain Davis Love decided to bench Woods in the third session of matches to make sure his team is rested for the decisive singles matches Sunday. That ends Woods‘ streak of playing in 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.”
He wasn’t the only rookie to shine on a mild day in the Chicago suburbs.
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 action so typical in this high-charged event.
“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.