Pressure? What pressure?
Keegan Bradley certainly didn’t feel a shred of it Friday as the Ryder Cup rookie teamed with Phil Mickelson to thoroughly trounce two of Europe’s best squads at Medinah Country Club.
The duo’s first victims were Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, both previously unbeaten in foursomes. They went down meekly 4 and 3.
Next up: World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Those two were down 3 after three holes, and although the match went down to a thrilling conclusion on the 17th hole, the Euros fell 2&1.
Bradley, the 2011 PGA champ, became just the ninth Ryder Cup rookie since 1979 to win each of his first two matches.
So what do you think of your new partner, Phil?
“He played some of the best golf and to be his partner was an awesome experience,” Mickelson said. “I love, love playing with this man.”
As for the pressure, Mickelson says it just plays into Bradley’s hand.
“There’s a simple reason Keegan’s perfect for the Ryder Cup,” he said. “The more pressure the situation, the better he plays … the better he sees the shot … the better he focuses … the better the result. And there’s no bigger pressure situation than the Ryder Cup. And that’s when he’s at his best.”
Even though he won the WGC-Bridgestone in August and tied for third at the PGA Championship the next week, Bradley wasn’t exactly playing his best golf coming into the Ryder Cup. In the FedEx Cup playoffs, he never finished better than a tie for 13th in the four events. His performance in the Tour Championship was especially troubling as he shot 70-73-70-74 to finish in a tie for 23rd out of 30 golfers.
No matter. Bradley put all that behind him, saying there’s less pressure at the Ryder Cup than contending down the stretch in a major.
“It’s almost a little easier because you know you have a partner,” Bradley said. “I have Phil Mickelson, he’s hitting it in the woods, he’s hitting it over here — I told him, ‘I’ve played too many matches against you where you hit it in the woods and I think you’re done and you hit some big, high fade to two feet.’ I saw him do that a few times today.”
And anybody thinking Bradley was tired Friday after 36 holes and about 15,000 yards of golf can forget it.
“Oh baby,” he said, “I wish I could go 36 more.”
That’s the mentality Bradley brought to Medinah and it reverberated throughout his team and across the entire golf course all day.
It started on the ninth hole in the morning match when Bradley drained a birdie putt to square the match against Donald and Garcia. Arms pumping, an intense Bradley got the gallery roaring.
On No. 13, the monster 249-yard par 3, Bradley hit a soaring shot that settled to 15 feet. Mickelson buried the birdie putt and they were 2 up.
And for his last morning act, Bradley stepped up and drilled a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 15 that ended the match and set off a raucous celebration.
“This type of format and this type of energy, like having these guys on my team, just makes it so exciting,” Bradley said. “To have Chicago come out and cheer like they did, it was just an unbelievable day.”
Mickelson and Bradley got off to a lightning-fast start in the afternoon, winning the first three holes. Bradley was clearly enjoying the day and with fans cheering him on at the sixth tee box, he was nodding as if to say, “We’ve got this.”
But it wasn’t that easy as Mickelson started spraying the ball. The lead was just 2 up as the groups reached the 192-yard par-3 17th hole.
After McIlroy put his shot to about 15 feet, Mickelson stepped up and hit what Bradley said was “the greatest shot I’ve ever seen.”
The ball never left the flagstick, bounced on the green and landed two feet from the cup as the crowd erupted.
Game, set, match.
“We were running down the fairway, we had our arms around each other, we were screaming,” Bradley said. “It was like a Patriots game out there.”
Said McIlroy: “Yeah, it was, it was a fantastic shot, especially when he had to. We thought (with) a couple of birdies the last two holes we might pull off a half, but Phil was obviously thinking otherwise.”
The United States’ most successful duo of Day 1 will get another chance today as they are paired against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Expect plenty more smiles, fist pumps and roars from Bradley if things go their way.
“Keegan was fired up,” said U.S. captain Davis Love III. “I played with him here … a couple weeks ago, and he just pounded it around this course. It looked like it was built for him.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.