Look at Friday’s play

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

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Friday afternoon foresomes

Talk about an ugly afternoon for team America, whatever momentum they had in the morning came to a grinding halt as they didn’t win a single match and halve one of them.  They go into Saturday’s play behind 5 to 3.

We have seen these vicious 3 and a half to a half sessions before, you have to wonder if Captain Watson didn’t want to take a mulligan on several of his choices. The first has to be to let 44-year-old Phil Mickelson play a second match in a day, sorry Phil looked to tired on the back nine as this team slipped. Of course many will question why Watson didn’t play the hero’s of the morning, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. I also have to wonder about Jim Furyk, talk about a person that has been possessed by the golfing devil as he has had nothing but bad luck down the stretch for years now. Furyk really needs a exorcism because he is jinxed, we saw it a half dozen times in 2014. Perfect example was on 18, Matt Kuchar had a easy wedge to the final green, they needed a birdie to halve the match and Kuchar chunk it short and Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood went on to win 2 up. Sorry but between Furyk and Kuchar they have won $93 million in golf and can’t seem to come up with the big shot when they needed it.

Then you have the Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson pairing in the second foresome match, which is looking like the superstar partnership of the week. Again they came out strong against Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson in their 2 & 1 victory and watch down the stretch as Mahan and Johnson made bogeys at 15 and 17 to give the match away. For the round, Rose and Stenson were 2 under and with their wins in the morning scored two of Europe’s five points in day one.

In the third foresome match you had Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia finally getting it together with birdies on the last three holes to squeak out a half against Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler. Sorry but I have to think that the McIlroy/Garcia pairing is not smart because they are two great players with very big egos. You just can’t pair these guys together, we saw the disastrous results of this in 2004 when American Captain Hal Sutton paired Tiger Woods with Phil Mickelson. They both went down in flames losing both Friday matches and this almost happen to McIlroy and Garcia. For Walker and Fowler, they didn’t play that great and got a bit unlucky with some great golf against them on the final two holes.

In the final pairing, again people will question Phil Mickelson playing twice. with a birdie on two, Dubuisson and McDowell led the whole way. They were even par so they didn’t play that great but got lucky that Phil and Keegan were 3 over.

The one thing that we are realizing is that the U.S. team really doesn’t have the key player that will get his teammates fired up. They will need to get fired up for Saturday’s play, they can’t be too far behind going into the singles.

Another thing that we are all realizing about these matches.  Your not seeing much attacking and birdies being made.  Of course the wind was up but honestly this course is not a great Ryder Cup course.  They have made it very difficult with artificial means like high rough and greens that are not very fast.  Of course that was on purpose, officials feared that if the greens were too fast balls would move on the greens in the wind, so that is the reason.  But every time you saw players putting they would come up short.

Guess we can’t do anything about the course and have to hope for the best on Saturday.


From the four ball:
Good morning to everyone.
It’s amazing, it may be breakfast time back home in Washington, but it feels like I have been here all day.
What a great Scottish day for golf, in the high 50s and about 10 am Scottish time the wind started blowing from the west. Right now it’s blowing a consistent 30 mph. This has dropped the temperatures a bit, but what it’s caused is very tough conditions.

In the morning fourball, there was mixed results. First, the morning was dull in my opinion, it’s hard to watch guys in best ball struggling just to make par. Usually you will see in four matches like 30 to 40 birdies made, but in the morning fourballs only 28 birdies and two eagles. A couple of shockers, first in match 1 Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson wiped out Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5 & 4. What a bad omen this sends out to Captain Tom Watson and the rest of the Americans, over the course of 14 holes Watson and Simpson didn’t make a single birdie. No surprise that you won’t see Bubba or Webb this afternoon. One thing this is showing is how Bubba Watson is now geared to certain courses and it’s a crap-shoot bringing him to a new course. Guess if the Ryder Cup ever goes to Augusta National or Riviera, Bubba is your man. I thought this match would be a halve, was I wrong. Oh, I never mentioned Rose and Stenson played great, they were four under par but what they did was strike early, winning two of the first four holes and just adding to the lead.
The second match of the day turned into a bit of a surprise as Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer birdied three of the first four holes for a 3 up lead. Little would they know that Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker would hang in on the par 3s and 4s, never making a bogey and then dominate the last three par 5s. Walker eagle nine and the match got back to Euro leading 1 up. Bjorn birdied 13 to get it back to 2 up, only to see lighting strike for the American team. With Bjorn and Kaymer having birdie putts, Walker chipped in from off the 16th green for a birdie 4 on the par 5. This led to a lot of excitement, probably the one key finish of the day. Both teams made par-3s on the 17th and this forced the Americans to again find some sort of miracle. They got it with Walker making an 8-footer for birdie at 18 to square the match and getting each team a half a point. This must of showed Captain Watson a ray of hope as he will send out Walker and Fowler again in the foursomes.
The third match was a wipe out and many didn’t see this coming. The odds weren’t very favorable for the two rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed against Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter. But for team Europe, Gallacher looked like a deer lost in someone’s headlights, he was really terrible and struggled all day. This didn’t help Ian Poulter, who in the last four matches has played like a God and was able to pair up with anyone for victory. But with Gallacher, he found someone that made him look terrible. For the day the European team only made one birdie, by Gallacher on the second hole while the team of Spieth and Reed reeled off six of them and even with a bogey on 12 the American’s crushed Poulter/Gallacher 5 & 4. The big surprise, the two rookies looked great together and many of us in the press room thought the performance was good enough to get a repeat in the foursomes, but that wasn’t to be as both Reed and Spieth will sit out the afternoon matches.

Now before we get to the last match of the fourball, let’s look at the afternoon pairings in foursomes.

In the first match captain Watson has a very interesting pairing of Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar. Both of them are smooth operators who value hitting fairways and greens over length, so we will see how they do together.  I don’t think this is smart but there is something about being accurate.  For Furyk, Kuchar will be his 15th different partner in Ryder Cup play as the search for that perfect partner continues. They play Jaime Donaldson and Lee Westwood who on the surface look over matched. I see this as a very close match, Westwood has a lot to prove and I see him doing his best to get an European point. Still I will take the easy route on this saying this match will be halved.

In the second match the winning combination of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will take on Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson. This is another of those great matches that frankly is going to be hard to pick, but Rose and Stenson have momentum from the morning and I see this continuing in the Afternoon with Rose and Stenson putting up another point.
In the third match you have Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler against Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. With a hard fought morning match by both teams, I smell some American blood as they upset this team. It’s funny how well Garcia is in team play, but with a guy like McIlroy this may not be the best pairing, we saw this in the morning four ball when they were upset by Mickelson and Bradley.  I see a upset here with Walker and Fowler winning.
The last match has Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. I was very surprise at how well Mickelson and Bradley played in the morning and I see this continuing as they notch a win over the Europeans. I just haven’t heard much from Dubuisson and McDowell so that is what I am basing this on.  But after the great upset of Garcia and McIlroy in the morning four ball, I think of Mickelson and Bradley to be a great partnership, they could rival the great pairing of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
Now let’s talk about the last match of the fourball. Everyone thought this was going to be a wipeout, that McIlroy and Garcia would make mince-meat of Bradley and Mickelson and that just doen’t happen. The match went back and forth as 8 of the first 17 holes saw a win by a team. In reality Bradley and Mickelson should of won this easily but as a team they bogeyed 11, 13 and 15. All wasn’t lost as Bradley made eagle at 16 to square the match.  The 17th hole was halve with pars and on 18 Mickelson hit the greenside bunker in two on the par 5, and produce a great shot to make birdie and win the match one up.

With this it turned everything around.  The American team won the session 2 an a half to 1 and a half and I have to say have the momentum going into the afternoon foursomes.

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