MEDINAH, Ill. — Wonder no more what would happen if the crowd screamed in the middle of a golfer’s backswing. It’s happened two days in a row at the Ryder Cup by design, signaling what might be the start of a tradition.
U.S. golfer Bubba Watson got things off to a raucous start Friday afternoon, stepping onto the tee box and waving his arms like a cheerleader, exhorting fans in the packed grandstands to get on their feet and yell. As the wall of noise closed in, Watson addressed his opening drive and crushed it down the middle of the fairway. The roar got even louder.
The moment so energized players on both teams that when Watson did the same thing on his opening tee shot Saturday morning, Europe’s Ian Poulter encouraged the crowd to keep howling and promptly followed suit.
“It was ridiculous. A special moment,” Poulter said. “It’s an amazing amphitheater to stand there and hit that first tee shot, even when it’s quiet.
“I knew Bubba was going to do it today,” he added, “so why not join him?”
PRESIDENTIAL PRIVILEGE: The Americans’ big day got the presidential seal of approval.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush were at the Ryder Cup on Saturday, joining U.S. captain Davis Love III to watch some of the fourball matches. While the elder Bush and wife Barbara were easily recognizable, riding in a cart with small American flags, the younger Bush blended in with Love’s squad.
He even wore the same blue-and-white striped shirt that was the U.S. team uniform Saturday.
“There’s nothing like the Ryder Cup in my view,” said the elder Bush, who has been to every one since Valderrama in 1997.
CURIOUS CHOICES: One of the boldest shots of the Ryder Cup came from Jim Furyk. He was 2 down in the opening foursomes match when Furyk, one of the shorter hitters for the Americans, hit driver on the par-4 15th to the front of the green. That forced Graeme McDowell to hit driver, and he went in the water, losing the hole.
Watson made a strange choice Saturday. He and Webb Simpson were 2 down on the 15th. Poulter smartly laid up with an iron. Watson, his team needing a birdie in the match, chose to lay up. They halved the hole in pars. They won the next hole with a bogey but never caught up.
THE 13TH MAN: Blame the partisan galleries at Medinah, the leadership of Phil Mickelson, excitable rookie Keegan Bradley’s spectacular play, or even the businesslike duo of Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. All have played a role in Europe’s mounting deficit heading into the final day’s singles matches.
But Graeme McDowell thinks there’s one other factor in play.
“This golf course, it’s about momentum. If you’re seeing it on the greens, you can really get it going with the putter,” he said. “And if you’re not ... “
If you’re not, you’re in for some misadventures. McDowell and teammate Rory McIlory were strong on the greens in their opening match, beating Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker 1-up, but the Northern Ireland duo has struggled since. They were beaten Friday afternoon by Mickelson and Bradley, then again Saturday morning by Furyk and Snedeker before splitting up.
“We’re in a hole,” McDowell said. “These guys, there’s blood in the water and they are up for it.”
DIVOTS: Keegan Bradley became the first rookie since Sergio Garcia in 1999 to win his opening three matches. Garcia went on to halve a fourth match, and then lost in singles. Bradley is the first American rookie to go 3-0 in team matches since Loren Roberts in 1995. Roberts actually had three partners at Oak Hill — Jeff Maggert, Peter Jacobsen and Corey Pavin. ... Bradley and Phil Mickelson have been so dominant this week that at one point, they won seven consecutive holes - the last four holes of a foursomes match Friday morning and the opening three holes of their fourballs match that afternoon.