MEDINAH, Ill. -- With one match to go -- Ian Poulter and Justin Rose have a 2-up lead on Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker with three holes to play -- the US has a slim edge in morning foursomes, winning two of the first three matches.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell lost a late three-hole lead, but won No. 18 with a par to beat Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, 1-up. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson closed their match by winning the last four holes, becoming the first team to beat Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, 4 and 3. Donald (6-0-0) and Garcia (8-0-1) had never lost a foursomes match in the Ryder Cup before, and were 4-0 together as a team until running into Bradley and Mickelson.
"It was one of the most memorable days of my life so far," said Bradley, making his Ryder Cup debut. He holed the winning putt, knocking in a 28-footer on the 15th.
Another US rookie, Jason Dufner, also earned captain Davis Love a point, teaming with Zach Johnson to beat Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood, 3 and 2.
Love and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal have just released their afternoon pairings, when the format switches to four-balls, or better-ball.
Match 1: Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson (US) vs. Paul Lawrie-Peter Hanson (Europe).
Match 2: Bradley-Mickelson (US) vs. McIlroy-McDowell (Europe).
Match 3: Dustin Johnson-Matt Kuchar (US) vs. Rose-Martin Kaymer (Europe).
Match 4: Woods-Stricker (US) vs. Westwood-Nicolas Colsaerts (Europe).
Curious decision by Love to sit Dufner and Zach Johnson, especially since Dufner is capable of making a ton of birdies, which is what you want in four-balls, and played well this morning. Love hinted that he would use all 12 of his players the first day; actually, all 24 players will see action.
Also sitting in the afternoon for the US are Furyk and Snedeker. Taking the afternoon off for Europe are Donald and Garcia (another surprise), Poulter, and Molinari.
I'll give the edge to the US in the first afternoon match, which pits four players who didn't play in the morning. Watson and Simpson should generate some birdies, and they're likely to get the crowds into it.
Match 2 should be the one to watch. Bradley didn't show a whole lot of nerves this morning, and seems to be gaining confidence. He loves the Ryder Cup setting, and was constantly playing up the crowd for more chants, more songs, more high-fives. McIlroy and McDowell survived the morning after building a big lead. Both putted the lights out. This match could be epic.
Dustin Johnson and Kuchar will be in for a dogfight against Rose, who played well this morning, and Kaymer, who might be a weak link for Europe. Look for Woods and Stricker to bounce back in the afternoon; the better-ball format suits Woods better.
If Woods and Stricker go 0-2 today, does Love sit them tomorrow? Could be something to watch.
Enjoy the golf this afternoon.