MEDINAH, Ill. — Keegan Bradley made Friday at the Ryder Cup feel like the best day of his life, and it wasn’t too shabby for the rest of the Americans.
Bradley led a strong performance by rookies on both teams at Medinah by teaming with Phil Mickelson for two wins against Europe’s best two partnerships. Even with Tiger Woods getting shutout on opening day for the fourth time, the United States took a big step toward regaining the cup by taking a 5-3 lead.
Leading the way was Bradley, the former PGA champion whom Mickelson took under his wing last year for a series of money games at the majors to prepare the New England kid for moments like this. And did he ever deliver.
“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.”
Bradley holed a 25-foot birdie putt in morning foursomes to hand Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia their first loss ever in Ryder Cup foursomes. Next up were Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and the Americans won the first three holes. Mickelson wasn’t there only for support. Right when Europe was trying to rally, the four-time major champion closed it out with a 7-iron to 2 feet that was conceded for birdie.
It was a day Bradley didn’t want to end.
“Oh, baby, I wish we could go 36 more,” Bradley said.
He wasn’t the only rookie to shine on a mild day in the Chicago suburbs. Nicolas Colsaerts, the 29-year-old from Belgium, helped Europe avoid getting shutout in afternoon fourballs by single-handedly taking down Woods and Steve Stricker.
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 enormous cheers and plenty of American red on the leaderboard.
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.
There was nothing he could do against Colsaerts, the biggest hitter in Europe who isn’t too bad with the putter, either.
“Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I’ve ever seen,” Woods said, high praise coming from a 14-time major champion.
Woods turned in a mixed performance. He missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 15th to fall 2 down, and then came back with a bending, 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th and a shot into 4 feet on the 17th that looked as if it might square the match. Instead, Colsaerts rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt for a halve. Woods had a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th to halve the match, only it caught the left lip.
Both captains made sure all 12 of their players got into the game early, though European captain Jose Maria Olazabal set himself up for second-guessing when he sat out Donald, Garcia and Poulter for the afternoon matches. They have a combined 31-13-5 record in the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson set an American record by playing in his ninth Ryder Cup, and he won his opening two matches for the first time in his career. Mickelson came up with some big putts and amazing shots, and the 42-year-old felt about 10 years younger playing alongside Bradley.
“It could be the best day of my life,” Bradley said.
Europe has won six of the last eight times in the Ryder Cup, and it wasn’t about to hang its head after one day. It was leading all four of the opening matches early Friday under a gloomy sky. The sun came out, and the Americans came to life.
“There’s a long way to go in this tournament,” Rose said. “There’s ebbs and flows. Obviously, there’s momentum for the U.S. team right now, but that could all swing back in our favor tomorrow.”