The new blood helped the Americans draw first blood in the Ryder Cup on Friday.
Thanks largely to rookies Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner, the U.S. finds itself in a good spot after the first day of matches at Medinah Country Club.
Bradley, teamed with Phil Mickelson in the morning foursomes and afternoon fourball, helped earn 2 points as the Americans hold a 5-3 lead heading into day two.
But it was Simpson, teaming with Bubba Watson, who enjoyed a special debut. At one point the Americans led their match with Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson 6-up after 10 holes before eventually dusting off the Europeans 5 and 4.
Simpson and Watson each contributed 5 birdies in the rout.
“We just played great,” Simpson said.
“The train left on the front nine,” Hanson said. “Me and Paul, we didn’t play good enough to jump on that train. Six down after 10, that was kind of hard.”
Good buddies off the course, Simpson and Watson played with their special chemistry in full view.
“Just playing with a good buddy that can keep me cool,” Watson said.
Dufner played with Zach Johnson in the morning foursomes and they defeated Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari 3 and 2.
Add them up and that’s 4 points for the U.S. rookies.
“Everybody kept calling them rookies, but they’re proven Tour winners and FedExCup winners and guys that have played very, very well lately,” said U.S. captain Davis Love.
All of the American rookies were upstaged by Nicolas Colsaerts, Europe’s lone first timer, who had eight birdies and an eagle in an afternoon match in which he and partner Lee Westwood held off Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker 1-up.
In one of the few matches that made it to the 18th hole, Woods missed an 18-footer that would have been his eighth birdie of the day.
Dufner and Johnson were among the first groups off the No. 1 tee, which helped Dufner with his nerves.
“I really like this format, this tournament,” Dufner said. “For me, I feel like there’s a little bit less pressure. I’m not trying to post a score. I’m just trying to play golf and enjoy the day and be with a teammate and try to get a point for the team.
“I’m just caught up in each hole being a point and win points for the team, so that takes a lot of stress out for me.”
The partnership turned out to be gold for Love.
“I don’t know when we first started talking about it, but it was probably pre-FedEx, I would say,” Johnson said. “We’ve played a lot of golf together. I don’t know if he said it first or if I did, but it was as if we were both thinking that same thing.
“Davis was kind of picking everybody’s brains as to who we thought we should play with. He loved the idea and it’s kind of been a natural tandem, I guess you would say.”
Added Dufner: “We have very similar games, similar demeanors. I thought we could match up well, especially in the alternate shot format, and even in the best ball format. I think we’re just a good match.”
But in the afternoon fourball match, Johnson and Dufner took a seat and watched. Rookie Brandt Snedeker and partner Jim Furyk fell behind by 3 after 11 holes but rallied to square the match heading to the 17th hole.
It was still square going to 18 when Snedeker’s errant tee shot put Furyk in a tough spot. They ultimately bogeyed the hole, losing the match when Europe’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy managed to par.
“We were up against a tough pair and they were making a bunch of birdies on us, but we hung in there really tight,” said Snedeker, the recently crowned FedExCup champ. “We got to 18 with a chance to win and I just put an awful shot and put Jim in a terrible position. I hated to do that to Jim and to the team.
“Under pressure I get quick and stuff happens in my swing that I don’t want to happen.”
Snedeker said it wasn’t until his tee shot at 18 that he felt pressure.
“Well, welcome to the Ryder Cup,” joked Furyk.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.