In this Ryder Cup day one verdict, we look at the US foursomes meltdown and pose the four tough questions Jim Furyk will need to answer
From an American perspective, it was all going so well. After a nip and tuck morning session, they stole the initiative and walked away with a 3-1 lead. For those of us who sat through Europe’s slow Ryder Cup death at Hazeltine, this was following a desperately familiar pattern.
That the Americans went onto lose all four afternoon matches was a shock. The truth is, they didn’t just lose – it was worse than that. The US team were wayward off the tee and nervous on the greens. One after another, holes dropped steadily until it quickly appeared that all four games were gone. As a group, the Americans were 14-over par this afternoon.
After such as disastrous afternoon, Jim Furyk now has some important soul-searching to do. Here are the questions he’ll need to answer:
Should he bench Mickelson?
Phil Mickelson is not a player known for long hours of practice during tournament weeks. That he spent more time on the range than many of his team mates in the build up to Friday’s matches, told a revealing story about his form. Phil has been battling his game for some weeks now and this afternoon, his wayward long game consistently undermined his attempts battle with the Europeans. Not even Superman could have helped Mickelson to victory today. However, do not forget that Mickelson was a Captain’s pick. Benching him would be to confess that Furyk got this decision badly wrong. Mickelson might be playing in his 11th Ryder Cup but this could be one too far.
GM Verdict: Leave out Phil, he’s all at sea
Is Tiger fit to play?
Something didn’t seem right from the start. The freedom had gone and in its’ place, Tiger’s swing had a stuttering look. After returning from spinal fusion surgery and winning the final event on the PGA Tour season last week, Woods now looks physically tired. What’s more, in a Ryder Cup your reputation means nothing, you are there to be shot at just like everyone else. Putting out an unfit Tiger Woods on day two could be to gift a point to team Europe.
GM Verdict: Unless his back is truly injured, we expect to see him play in the fourballs, possibly alongside Bryson DeChambeau
With such a desperate showing this afternoon, the Americans will need to work out what their foursomes line-up should look like tomorrow. It’s fair to expect none of the same pairings in tomorrow’s foursomes but wholesale changes will change the entire dynamic. Whatever happens you can expect to see Spieth and Reed play together again and Johnson and Koepka pair up.
GM Verdict: Our US foursomes line-up would be: Spieth and Reed, Johnson and Koepka, Thomas and Fowler, DeChambeau and Simpson.
What to do with Bubba?
The other player whose form will worry Furyk is Bubba Watson. After an astonishing start to the year, Watson has had just one top 10 finish since June. At the start of the week he also spoke of feeling unwell after a busy end to the PGA Tour season. His performance this afternoon has only underlined some of those worries heading into the Ryder Cup. Does Furyk give Watson another go? If so, the fourballs would seem like the obvious place where mistakes aren’t so readily punished. The problem is that by playing him in the fourballs, you might need to split a winning partnership.
GM Verdict: Furyk has some tough decisions to make and Watson might well find himself watching from the sidelines tomorrow.