Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson know how to give an encore.
A day after taking down Europe’s top two teams, the duo won in record fashion to give the U.S. a 6-3 lead at the Ryder Cup on Saturday.
Bradley’s and Mickelson’s 7-and-6 victory over Lee Westwood and Luke Donald tied the mark for most lopsided score in an 18-hole team match. It also improved Bradley’s win-loss record to 3-0, the best Ryder Cup start for a rookie since the guy he was playing with in 1995.
Two other teams have won 7 and 6, with Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara in 1991 the last to do it.
”We’ve had so much fun,” Mickelson said. ”The crowd has provided so much energy, and it’s brought our best golf out.”
It was the second straight foursomes loss for Donald, who’d been unbeaten in his first six times out. And it was a further blow for Europe, which trailed 6-3 and was behind in two other matches.
Mickelson and Bradley have been fast friends since Bradley joined the U.S. PGA Tour last year, and that bond has made them the revelation of the Ryder Cup.
Bradley’s enthusiasm – he sprinted out to the first tee to rile up the crowd 30 minutes before his morning tee time – has rubbed off on Mickelson, and Lefty has given Bradley the confidence to play free and easy.
And Europe hasn’t been able to do a thing about it.
Bradley and Mickelson are on such a roll they didn’t even have to putt to win their first two holes. The Europeans conceded No. 1 when Mickelson put his second within 2 feet of the pin, and they gave the Americans No. 2 after Westwood put his tee shot in the water and missed the bogey putt.
The Americans got back-to-back birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 to go 6 up. Mickelson hit a gorgeous wedge to give Bradley an 8-footer on the par-4 No. 9, and Bradley knocked it in, letting out a roar and pumping his fist.
The Americans two-putted for birdie on the par-5 10th, taking the hole when Donald saw another putt lip out.
The Americans closed out the match thanks to another big wedge shot by Mickelson. Bradley’s second shot hit a tree and landed in some rough, though Mickelson did have a clear shot at the green. He played it perfectly, the ball hitting the green about 20 feet left of the pin and trickling down a slope to within a foot of the cup.
The crowd began partying, chants of ”U-S-A! U-S-A” echoing through the trees, oblivious to the fact the Europeans still had a chance to halve the hole. It didn’t matter, as Westwood botched his birdie putt and Donald missed a short one for par to end it.
It’s been a rough two days for Westwood, and captain Jose Maria Olazabal will have to decide whether to send him out again in the afternoon.
U.S. captain Davis Love III has a tough choice, too, with Mickelson and Bradley. It’s hard to sit a hot team, but he doesn’t want to burn them out with singles still to play on Sunday.
But Mickelson made it sound as if the choice was already made.
”Historically and mathematically, the guys that have played five matches have not done as well in the singles,” Mickelson said. ”We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that are playing some great golf who need to get out and play, as well. Don’t be surprised if we end up not playing because we don’t want to risk two points for one.”
The lone bright spot for the Europeans was coming from the first foursome, with Ian Poulter and Justin Rose 2 up on Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
Poulter is as passionate as they come about the Ryder Cup, and Europe badly needed his enthusiasm. He showed that Watson isn’t the only one who can play to the crowd, waving his hand to ask for more noise from the small contingent of European fans behind the first tee and nodding when they broke into a round of ”Ole! Ole! Ole!” Watson, who had done something similar on Friday, nodded and laughed.
Feeding off the crowd support, Watson and Simpson blitzed through a 5-and-4 victory on Friday. But they weren’t quite as sharp on Saturday, and Poulter and Rose took advantage. Simpson missed a 7-footer on 10 to put Europe up 1, and Poulter drained a short putt on the next hole to go 2 up. When the ball dropped in the cup, Poulter’s eyes bugged out and he pounded his chest.