MEDINAH, Ill. — Keegan Bradley made the Americans look good.
Even Tiger Woods.
Bradley put on an impressive show in his Ryder Cup debut Friday, helping the U.S. salvage a 2-2 tie with Europe in the foursome matches. He made four big birdie putts, including a 15-footer to clinch his and Phil Mickelson’s 4-and-3 upset of Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald. It was the Europeans’ first loss in alternate-shot play; they had been 4-0 together, and Garcia had a career record of 8-0-1.
“He played some of the best golf and to be his partner was an awesome experience,” Mickelson said. “I love, love playing with this man. He’s just so fun, loves the game and plays with such excitement. And man, can he roll the rock.”
As the winning putt rolled into the cup, Bradley let loose with a scream that could be heard all across Medinah while his caddie twirled the flag stick like a baton. Bradley pumped his fist, and he and Mickelson exchanged a hand slap and a hug.
Captain Davis Love III sent the duo out in the afternoon to face Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe’s top team, in fourballs.
“You need momentum on your side and, unfortunately, we didn’t have it today,” Garcia said.
Neither did Woods and Steve Stricker, who were in trouble from the first tee and fell 2-and-1 to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose for their third straight loss in match play. The two had little time to dwell on the loss, however, facing Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts in the final afternoon match.
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal sent McIlroy, the world No. 1, and McDowell, who delivered the winning point two years ago, out first in hopes they would get Europe off to a quick start. His plan appeared to be working, as an unfavorable relief ruling on the second hole fired the Northern Irish duo up. Two holes later, McIlroy chipped in from behind the green for the first of four straight birdies.
The world No. 1 screamed and threw a roundhouse punch when the ball went in the cup, and slapped McDowell’s hand so hard his friend will likely be feeling it the rest of the day.
They were 3 up through 12 holes and the momentum was infectious, with Europe leading all four matches at one point.
Bradley was rolling in one putt after another, and he and Mickelson won four straight holes to close out their match against Donald and Garcia.
“It was one of the most memorable days of my life so far,” Bradley said.
Bradley and Mickelson’s rally energized the Americans, and the blue numbers covering the scoreboard began to disappear. Jason Dufner evened his and Zach Johnson’s match with Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 9 that stopped a half-turn short of the hole. Dufner looked at it in astonishment, then gave a big smile when it dropped in a couple of seconds later.
He made a 10-footer on the next hole to take the lead, and he and Johnson went on to win 3 and 2.
McIlroy and McDowell, meanwhile, blew a chance to go 4 up when McDowell missed a 10-footer on the 12th hole. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker then made birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16, erasing the Europeans’ lead.
“We knew we just needed to hang in there and try and get something back,” McIlroy said.
They caught a break when Snedeker’s tee shot on 18 sailed so far right he had no idea where it went. Furyk missed a 20-footer for par by inches, and McDowell coolly put the Americans away with a 5-foot putt.
“That match to me personifies the Ryder Cup,” McDowell said.
Woods and Stricker had been 6-2-0 together in match play, and Love asked them to anchor the morning session. But they were in trouble right from the start, with Woods pushing two of his first three drives into the gallery and Stricker splashing his tee shot on No. 2. They struggled the entire afternoon, getting a break only because Rose and Poulter had some struggles of their own.
When Stricker’s long birdie putt on 17 missed by about 4 feet, the Americans had to concede the match. The victory improved Poulter’s Ryder Cup record to 9-3-0.
“It was a tough go for both of us,” Poulter said. “Tiger has had two of my three defeats, and I never wanted to have another one.”