MEDINAH, Ill. — If there’s one aspect of the first day that would be considered disappointing for the American team, it would be the two losses incurred by Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
The British duo of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose beat them in morning foursomes, 2 and 1. Woods and Stricker then fell in afternoon four-balls to Nicolas Colsaerts and Lee Westwood, 1 up. Woods and Stricker never led in the first match, and had a 1-up lead for just three holes in the second.
“We didn’t contribute anything today, but we’ve got a couple more days yet, so we can’t hang our heads,” Stricker said. “We’ve got a 2-point lead after the first day, so off to a good start. The rest of the team played great.”
The day for the pair started with Woods pulling his drive near the corporate tents way left on No. 1, and ended with Woods missing a birdie putt on No. 18 that would have halved the match and earned a half-point. He fought his swing early, then found it in the afternoon and started holing putts, making seven birdies against Westwood and Colsaerts. But it wasn’t enough.
“I drove it great this afternoon and was in position, but we ran into a guy who just made absolutely everything,” Woods said of Colsaerts, who had eight birdies and an eagle in his first Ryder Cup match. “One of the greatest putting rounds I’ve ever seen.”
Woods and Stricker have lost the last four times they’ve been paired together, including a loss at last year’s Presidents Cup (7 and 6) and at the 2010 Ryder Cup (6 and 5). Woods is now 13-16-2 in Ryder Cup matches.
US captain Davis Love, who said he considered sitting Woods and Stricker on Friday afternoon, has instead given both Saturday morning off. It will be the first time Woods — who is playing on his seventh team — has not played in a Ryder Cup session. It remains to be seen if they’ll be paired together in Saturday afternoon’s four-ball matches.
“I think Tiger needs a rest. Steve needs a rest,” Love said. “Neither one of them are very happy about it. Not because they are sitting out, because they have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to come back.”
Odd men out
Among the four European players to sit in the afternoon, Poulter was the only one to win his morning match (Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, and Francesco Molinari were also benched, but lost theirs). Poulter’s afternoon absence was surprising, considering his Ryder Cup record is a sparkling 9-3-0.
“It’s not disappointing,” said Poulter, who knew on Thursday that he’d be sitting out Friday afternoon. “Well, I would love to have played five matches, but I realize that we are a team. That team is very, very, very strong this year, and [captain Jose Maria Olazabal] really wanted to get everybody playing on Friday. So four guys have got to change from the morning round, and that’s obviously going to be difficult.”
Poulter will be back in action on Saturday morning, playing in the first foursomes match with Rose against Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
Garcia was returning to the course on No. 9 after a bathroom break — he and Donald were all-square in their morning match against Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson at the time — when he passed a female fan.
Fan: “Marry me, Sergio? You’re my dream man.”
Garcia: “I’m kind of busy right now.”
Let’s hear it
Perhaps the most unique scene from the first day was Watson striking his tee shot off No. 1 in his afternoon four-balls match. Watson, with the crowd cheering after he was introduced, asked for more noise as he addressed the ball, and hit his tee shot with the crowd roaring with enthusiasm.
Quiet, please? Not in Bubba’s world.
“I figured if I was going to play bad today I’d better have fun on the first hole at least,” said Watson, who didn’t play poorly, teaming with Simpson for a 5-and-4 win over Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson. “I just got the crowd into it, did it for the fun of it. It’s the Ryder Cup. Why not have fun?”
Jason Dufner, who teamed with Zach Johnson for a 3-and-2 win over Westwood and Molinari in the morning, gave an assist to the Medinah crowd on No. 9, when his birdie putt to win the hole hung on the lip for a few seconds. Then it dropped. “I almost felt like the roar of the crowd . . . willed that ball into the hole,” Dufner said. The birdie brought them all-square, they won the next hole, and led the rest of the way . . . Mickelson was forced to play Bradley’s drive on the par-5 fifth hole from the left rough in the morning alternate-shot format, and learned when he got there that the ball had struck a male fan, who was not injured. “Just so you know, so we’re clear, it wasn’t me that hit that shot,” a smiling Mickelson said to the man. Bradley came over and gave him an autographed golf ball . . . All 24 players saw action on the first day . . . The best alternate-shot score, in relation to par, was Bradley and Mickelson, who were 4 under through 15 holes. The best better-ball score was by Watson and Simpson, who were 10 under through 14 holes. Colsaerts and Westwood were also 10 under, but played all 18 holes . . . When Mickelson and Bradley reached the first tee in the morning, they were met by a serenade chant of “major winners!” from the pro-US crowd. That was a not-so-subtle dig at their opponents, Donald and Garcia, neither of whom have won a major championship . . . Garcia, when asked if he was surprised Love was sending out Woods in the afternoon: “I don’t really care what the Americans do. It’s their problem, not mine.”