With all its hype and build-up, Ryder Cup openers have a lot to live up to, but Friday’s entrée served up one of the most stirring days in the tournament’s history. The raucous atmosphere, spread over a sun-baked Medinah coated with its vocal fans, played merely a side part to the main act, which was a golfing performance that had fire and flair, with dashes of nerves never far away.
Davis Love had promised fireworks but not even he could have foreseen the impact his players would have on the day. They lead 5-3. It could have been better; it could have been worse. Back and forth, momentum swung, and while Europe will have it all to do today, they will feel energised by a performance that stood taller than the rest from their one and only debutant, Nicolas Colsaerts.
Before the Belgiun teed off in the third match of the afternoon fourballs, it looked likely that the recipient of the ‘Rookie of the Day’ award would go to Keegan Bradley. The 2011 USPGA winner was unplayable in partnership with Phil Mickelson. Long off the tee, deadly with his irons, Bradley fed off the adrenalin.
But Colsaerts took it to another level in what could be one of the finest rookie outings ever. Murmurings that he would be the longest hitter in Europe’s ranks were fed back to the US team, but nobody expected such a performance from him on the greens.
He made eight birdies, as well as an eagle at the par-5 10th. Under intense pressure as Tiger Woods began to click into gear on the back nine, Colsaerts puffed out his chest with a finish that had the world number two purring with awe: “It was an awfully impressive day,” said a deflated Woods post match.
As for Woods, it was a case of too little, too late. He will miss a Ryder Cup session for the first time in his career in this morning’s foursomes, an omission that is down to his foursomes display yesterday.
It’s doubtful he has played worse golf since turning professional 16 years ago than he did in his 2&1 defeat to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. A horror day that started with a vicious hook off the first tee, the symptoms of Woods’ all-too-fragile driving game began to spread to other parts and when his touch was called on, there was too much ring rust to alleviate the pressure; it was a complete collapse of confidence and a sorry sight to see a man who could still be so great, be so poor.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Love was a brave man putting him out in the afternoon fourballs. He didn’t deserve a second chance, but he did play some fine golf on the back nine in the fourballs, despite his driving still the wrong side of wild.
Love has made the right call to leave him out. That said, Europe could take heart from his absence…