Mickelson, Bradley lead USA charge

Updated 9/28/2012 10:19 PM
  • Team USA's Bubba Watson tees off on Hole No. 1 to start his afternoon fourball match Friday. Watson and Webb Simpson didn't take long to take control of the match and give the U.S. a lead it never relinquished.

      Team USA's Bubba Watson tees off on Hole No. 1 to start his afternoon fourball match Friday. Watson and Webb Simpson didn't take long to take control of the match and give the U.S. a lead it never relinquished. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

There's Jason Dufner waiting for his putt to finally … drop … in.

There's Phil Mickelson smiling and slapping partner Keegan Bradley on the backside after the Ryder Cup rookie drilled a perfect tee shot -- yet again.

The duo would turn out to be the stars of the day, taking home a pair of victories, including an impressive 2 & 1 win over the imposing European pair of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in afternoon fourball play.

There's thousands of previously rowdy spectators now sitting quietly in the bleachers surrounding the first tee, watching as Bubba Watson prepares to launch his afternoon round.

There's Watson and his caddie imploring that crowd to make some noise -- while he hits -- and the crowd obliges and then goes nuts when Watson stripes one nearly to I-355.

Welcome to the Madhouse at Medinah.

Welcome to the 39th Ryder Cup, where the U.S. team came into the day the slightest of favorites against a formidable group of Europeans but now look to be in really good shape courtesy of a 5-3 opening day highlighted mainly by the performance of the young guns, but by one wily veteran as well.

"This is one of the most emotional days playing in a Ryder Cup that we'll ever have," said Mickelson, whose 2 wins in one day was a first for him in Ryder Cup play. "It gets emotion out of every player, good or bad, and this has been one of the biggest highs that we've had."

Mickelson and Bradley rolled past Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia (4 & 3) in the morning round and then took down the Northern Ireland giants in the afternoon to cap a spectacular day.

"It could be the best day of my life," Bradley gushed. "I wish I could play more of these events."

He's certainly not alone. In addition to Bradley, two other Cup rookies garnered points Friday.

Dufner and Zach Johnson defeated Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari in morning foursomes, setting the table for fellow rookie Webb Simpson and one Mr. Watson, who won the crowd over with his very first shot and never let up in a 5 & 4 thumping of Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson.

"I figured if I was going to play bad today I'd better have fun on the first hole at least," Watson said of getting the crowd into it. "I just did it for the fun of it. It's The Ryder Cup. Why not have fun?"

The last time the U.S. won three matches in a team session occurred in 1995, in the Friday afternoon four-ball matches.

"Frankly, what we were looking for after the morning round was someone to get it going, get the fans excited, and thankfully Bubba and Webb did that in the afternoon," said U.S. captain Davis Love III. "It was very entertaining."

The Europeans picked up a pair of wins in the morning session when McIlroy and McDowell topped Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker (1 up) and Ian Poulter and Justin Rose rolled Woods and Stricker (2 & 1).

But in the afternoon …

"Not the kind of day we were expecting -- especially in the afternoon," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "We faced two really hot pairings in the two (afternoon) matches.

"And Saturday morning our first two matches are tough -- we have Phil and Keegan and Bubba and Webb. We have to change the momentum. We need to have a great day."

The young guns on the U.S. team won't have to wait too long to get another chance for a great day: All four rookies are in Love's morning lineup.

And they certainly have the right attitude heading in.

"The key thing for us is just about having fun," Watson said. "We're playing in the Ryder Cup. If we would have lost today, we're still playing in the Ryder Cup."

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