Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Americans off to promising Ryder Cup start

Posted by Bill Koch on October 2, 2010

More early Ryder Cup action equals more bonus coverage from the crew here at Ramble On. As we said yesterday, tape delay isn’t something that we have ever believed in. Since work is going to get in the way a little later today, we’re going to stick in through the end of the four-ball matches that were continued from yesterday’s rain-soaked mess at Celtic Manor and drop some pre-dawn knowledge on all of our East Coast fans. We’re not limiting this to five thoughts – it could end up being seven, nine or 13 – but we promise that no filter will be used at any time.

Lavender sweaters and sweater vests? Who the f%$& do we think we’re going to intimidate wearing lavender sweaters and sweater vests? David Beckham might live in Los Angeles now, but that doesn’t mean that we should allow his metrosexual bulls^%$ to cross the Atlantic Ocean with him. How does that fit into our traditional red, white and blue? Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss all live in the United States – they couldn’t have taken five minutes apiece and given our guys a little help in the name of patriotism? This boozed-up Euro crowd hardly needed any more motivation to absolutely hammer us.

— Great to hear Johnny Miller and the rest of the NBC crew taking over for the crybabies at ESPN. If we had heard Mike Tirico, Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger tell us that it was raining and that the golf course was wet one more time yesterday we would have sent them to the same jungle where Forrest Gump got monsooned on for four straight months to let them see what real downpours look like. Miller is refreshingly blunt and won’t be afraid to call out the chokers and the phonies on either team.

This 14th hole looks like an absolute bastard to play, and we think it’s going to be a major turning point in several matches this weekend. It’s a merciless, snaking, 485-yard monster of a par-4 that will test even the strongest of wills with forced carries over water off the tee and into the green. The fact that Dustin Johnson rinsed his tee shot while trailing with Phil Mickelson is no shock to us – we’ve been telling you for months that Johnson was gutless under pressure and they were BY FAR the worst-performing of the eight teams that teed it up to open the competition.

— How has Jeff Overton never won on the PGA Tour? He started off with back-to-back birdies that helped he and partner Bubba Watson open up a 2-up lead after 11 holes. Overton’s making putts and looking solid just like he did yesterday.

— Steve Stricker is carrying Tiger Woods right now. That ridiculous chip-in on No. 12 makes it three birdies in five holes and puts the momentum squarely with the Americans, who have just taken a 1-up lead. You’ll see that shot on highlight packages throughout the weekend.

— There’s another horrendous mistake from Johnson – a bladed chip shot at No. 15 that a 16-handicapper wouldn’t throw out there at your local country club. Way to scull it across the green and into the bunker, Dustin. My Dad, who plays exactly once a year, thinks you should practice more. Johnson left Mickelson all alone against the birdie putts of Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, and the Euros moved 2-up with three to play. That pretty much seals an early lead for the hosts in the competition.

— Make that four straight birdies for Overton, and the American rookies have taken a 3-up lead through 12. Overton and Watson look really loose and confident right now – pretty much the opposite of how Mickelson and Johnson look.

— Don’t worry if you miss anything from Kaymer this weekend – you’ll be seeing him doing this Ryder Cup thing for years to come. The sand shot he hit from a greenside bunker at No. 16 to finish off Mickelson and Johnson was a thing of beauty. That’s the sort of steel that won Kaymer the PGA Championship and separates him from the likes of Johnson and the rest of the pretenders.

— Hope the fans in Wales brought their helmets. Tiger just fanned a tee shot so far to the right at No. 15, a driveable par-4, that he missed the first chunk of the 12-deep gallery and hit the spectators atop the hill next to the green. All the talk will turn to Tiger’s swing changes and the work he’s doing with Sean Foley to rationalize and avoid the truth here – Tiger’s a broken man, mentally and physically, and he’s a long way away from being able to win anything outside of a $2 weekend Nassau with Rachel Uchitel.

— Looks like a good night’s sleep did wonders for Rory McIlroy. The kid’s talent is undeniable, which is why we were a bit surprised that he started so poorly on Friday. Right on cue, McIlroy stormed out of the gate with three birdies in five holes on Saturday morning to bring himself and teammate Graeme McDowell all square with Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar heading to the 18th. McIlroy’s curling, left-to-right putt at the par-3 17th was the type of long distance bomb that the Euros always seem to make against the Americans.

— That’s a pretty disgusting number that NBC just threw up on the screen. In the last 33 Ryder Cup matches that have gone to the 18th hole, the Americans have four wins, 12 losses and 17 halves for a grand total of 12.5 out of a possible 33 points. That’s about as pathetic under pressure as you can get.

— Kuchar and McDowell each made routine pars at 18 to ensure each team a half-point. That’s Europe 1.5, USA 0.5 if you’re scoring at home. Considering the way McIlroy heated up when the match was continued this morning, we’ll take it.

— Overton and Watson only needed a par at the 16th to roll past Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, 3 and 2. That’s a terrific start for the rookies and a bit of a blow to the Euros’ confidence – they expected nothing short of a full point from the team of Donald and Harrington, two salty veterans. We’re all even at 1.5-1.5 with Stricker and Woods on the cusp of an improbable win in their match.

— Dan Hicks is trying to set the stage for Woods to drop in a birdie at 17 to win the match against Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher. He’s babbling on and on about how Woods has been so lethal in the past in these situations, about how Woods was the game’s best pressure putter when he was winning his 14 career majors and about how he almost expected Woods to make this putt based on his history. History, Dan, is in the past. Woods blew his putt through the break and past the right edge to send the match to the 18th hole.

— Tiger continues to make a mess out there, and Steve Williams shifted into Gestapo mode like he always does after Woods pulled his second shot well into the gallery at the par-5 18th. Woods fluffed his third shot, a simple chip down the hill into the green, and Williams had the nerve to be stern with the patrons who were trying to get out of the way while Woods was playing Pong off their legs with his golf ball. Cool it with the attitude, Steve. If your boss didn’t hit it into the people so often your blood pressure would be a lot lower.

— Fisher and Poulter couldn’t find a way to make a birdie at the 18th, handing Stricker and Woods a 2-up victory in their match and pushing the Americans out to a 2.5-1.5 lead. That’s a huge psychological advantage for the USA, one that it built on in 2008 at Valhalla and rode the rest of the way to a huge upset of the Euros. Let’s see what happens the rest of the day and the weekend. Don’t forget to check in here at Ramble On for occasional updates.

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