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updated: 9/29/2012 10:03 PM

Young guns have Team USA soaring

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  • Standing loud and proud, American fans have given plenty of support at Medinah County Club to a USA team on the verge of winning the 39th Ryder Cup.

       Standing loud and proud, American fans have given plenty of support at Medinah County Club to a USA team on the verge of winning the 39th Ryder Cup.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

If any doubt remained about whether the best American golfers care about team play, the U.S. erased it Saturday while announcing loud and proud that a new era of Ryder Cup play has dawned.

Experience doesn't matter if it's all bad, as has often been the case, but youth will serve well an American team desperate for fresh blood and victories.

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After a couple decades of terrible Ryder Cup play, Team USA has taken advantage of the biggest home-course advantage in golf history -- and taken apart Team Europe in historic fashion.

With an infusion of young players and the spectacular support of Chicago sports fans at Medinah, the U.S. has throttled Europe and made a mockery of the 39th Ryder Cup.

"This is the new generation of guys,'' said Tiger Woods after the U.S. went 5-3 for the second straight day. "The guys I grew up with are on the Senior Tour, so it's nice to have a new, young generation of guys.

"The thing is, we are all playing well coming in here. This is probably the best collection of 12 putters (the U.S. has) ever had. It's proving out to be the case."

Down 5-3 after getting pounded 3-1 Friday afternoon, Europe needed to make a statement Saturday morning. Instead, Team USA took it to the Euros again in foursomes with another 3-1 beating and essentially put an end to this competition.

Beginning Saturday afternoon fourball, Europe needed to go 10-6 in the final three sessions to tie and retain the Cup after losing 6 of the previous 8 matches.

But there would be no parting the red sea of U.S. numbers on the leader board. Saturday afternoon was merely more of the same, with Europe scrambling to win the final two matches of the day, each of which the U.S. could have tied with makable putts on 18.

As it stands, since a 2-2 Session I, the Americans have won 8 of 12 and take a commanding 10-6 lead into a dozen Sunday singles matches, needing only 4 points.

But unlike the "Miracle at Brookline'' in '99 -- when the U.S. overcame a 4-point deficit on home soil and took 8 out of 12 possible points -- this match is over.

The Euros don't have enough great players playing great golf. Sunday is merely the coronation. The Ryder Cup is coming home.

"Winning these last two matches was very, very big, because it gives us a decent chance tomorrow,'' said Sergio Garcia, who was on the losing end in '99. "I hope we can make them feel something similar (to '99). Hopefully, we'll get off to a good start and see how they react.

"It would be nice to kind of give it back the way they did it to us in '99."

The Europeans have intimidated the U.S. for the last two decades with their spirit, antics and -- most of all -- their putting.

But at Medinah, the Euros have looked overwhelmed by the speed of the greens and the U.S. team, which is beating Europe in all the ways that Europe formerly stuck it to the U.S.

Team USA is calm, confident and animated to the point of distraction, while the Euros are pressing, missing 3-foot putts and even their best players -- such as Rory McIlroy -- are dumping shots into the water.

The Americans used to crumble under the pressure, but they are the ones applying it and an experienced European team has gone to pieces.

"I think we'll enjoy the fact that we had another good day,'' said Matt Kuchar, "and make sure we come out tomorrow focused because with 12 points on the line, there's still a lot that can happen."

This Ryder Cup -- and perhaps future Cups -- changed on Friday morning when rookie Keegan Bradley took control of the tournament. Using his energy and youth, Bradley took an aging, inconsistent Phil Mickelson -- possessing a horrible Ryder Cup record -- and brought him out of his international funk.

In Session I with the U.S. losing every match, Bradley and Mickelson fought back, took the first American lead on No. 12 and won 4 straight holes to blow out Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald.

That helped the U.S. even the Friday morning matches at 2-2. They beat McIlroy and Lee Westwood Friday afternoon and never looked back, pounding Europe again Saturday morning for their third straight point, a preposterous 7&6 drubbing of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald that tied a Ryder Cup record.

Bradley has found the Mickelson of old, instead of an old Mickelson.

"To be able to share this experience with Keegan,'' Mickelson said, "and to partake in his great play and experience the Ryder Cup together has been really awesome."

Saturday was a star-studded event, with two presidents (both named Bush) and two Michaels (Jordan and Phelps) inside the ropes and cheering on Team USA.

But the true stars were Bradley and the fans, who have staggered the Europeans from nearly start to finish.

If there is a single moment to remember from the week thus far, it was the spontaneous singing of the national anthem around the 17th green amphitheater after Dustin Johnson made a huge birdie putt to halve the hole and save a match late Saturday.

As Woods stepped to the 17th tee, he smiled and waited for the fans to stop the music before throwing a dart to 5 feet.

"It's not very hard to get excited out there when you walk out onto that tee and the crowd is going crazy,'' Bradley said. "It's just an unbelievable event, an unbelievable experience as a player and as a fan.''

All that remains now is a day of singles -- and a star-spangled celebration.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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