Morrissey: Europeans feel the roar as Medinah maniacs play major role in USA’s lead
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org September 29, 2012 9:02PM
Europe's Ian Poulter reacts after making a putt on the 16th hole during a four-ball match at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Updated: November 1, 2012 9:50AM
This Ryder Cup has had almost everything. A beautiful golf course. Loud, engaged fans. Wonderful weather.
Imagine how much better it would have been had the Europeans shown up on time.
As it stands, two days into the three-day event, the Ryder Cup has become an exercise in hugging and hand-slapping by American golfers, which is great if you think men are afraid to show their emotions. I can report with some certainty that Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley like each other. A lot.
But if you came to see white-knuckled competition at Medinah Country Club, to see back-and-forth drama, you were probably disappointed until about the last hour of play Saturday.
A 10-6 American lead suggests this is a blowout searching for a parade route. Team USA too often looked like it was entertaining the troops at a USO stop Saturday. For too long, the Europeans looked vacant-eyed, as if they were sure one false move would set off a bomb. If Europe was representing a continent, it seemed to be Antarctica.
But then came Ian Poulter’s birdies and psycho screams, and, well, things changed. He was amazing in the afternoon, making birdies on the last five holes and almost singlehandedly keeping Team Europe alive. His rebel yells are still echoing around Medinah.
“You know what? It’s pretty fun, this Ryder Cup,’’ Poulter said.
The Euros traditionally have plugged into the teamwork element of the event much better than the Yanks have. This time around, they have looked discombobulated and not a little freaked out by the throngs of American fans lining the fairways and circling the greens.
Mickelson and Bradley won 7 and 6 against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in the morning session Saturday, matching the Ryder Cup record for the biggest victory by a pair. It set the tone for much of the day. Going into the afternoon session, Team USA led 8-4, thanks to three victories in the morning and the wall of sound that was Medinah.
Maybe golf has had it wrong forever. Maybe it needs more noise, more high-fiving teammates, more trash-talking fans. What was on display Saturday induced goose bumps if you were an American player and flop sweat if you were a European with a club in your hand. It was the strangest thing to hear fans cheering at bad shots by the Europeans. It was like a librarian allowing loud music to be played by the periodicals.
“Chicago should be very proud of the way the fans have acted,’’ Bradley said. “There hasn’t been much unsportsmanlike conduct. . . . It’s like playing on the road in any other sport. It’s obviously a huge advantage to be in front of your home crowd.’’
These people would chant “U-S-A, U-S-A’’ at the drop of a golf hat. For many of them, that’s about all they had Saturday. If they were lucky, they could catch a glimpse of a shot or two. With 40,000 people in attendance and only four matches per session, that’s how it was. But they played a role.
“We’ve had so much fun,’’ Mickelson said. “The crowd has provided so much energy, and it’s brought our best golf out.’’
Tiger Woods was benched for the morning, and for the first nine holes of the afternoon, it looked as if he might need a sponsor’s exemption for the singles competition Sunday. But he was on fire on the back nine against Sergio Garcia and Donald, at one point birdieing three of four holes.
When Garcia stepped away from a putt on No. 18,
the crowd howled at his indecision. He missed the putt. But Steve Stricker missed his putt, and Garcia and Donald won 1 up.
Too late? Probably. Too big a lead. Too much talent on the American side. Too much vocal support.
“It was hard, very hard, to ignore the red on the board,’’ said Europe’s Graeme McDowell, who along with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy lost 1 up to Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker in the morning. “It’s hard to ignore the noise that’s been made around the golf course.’’
The Americans are putting better. They’re doing most everything better than the Euros, including decibels. When Dustin Johnson rolled in a long birdie putt on No. 17 to help him and Matt Kuchar go 1 up on Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie, the earth seemed to move at Medinah.
“There’s blood in the water, and they are up for it,’’ McDowell said of Team USA.
Team Europe needs a miracle Sunday to stop the bleeding.