Rookie Bradley brings new backbone to USA
23:36 GMT, 28 September 2012
The only time Keegan Bradley had
attended a Ryder Cup before this was the notorious Brookline edition in
1999, when his father Mark hoisted the then 13 year-old on his shoulders
to give him a view over the crowds.
Mark Bradley could not help but
remember that visit on Friday as he watched his son overcome cloying
nerves on the first tee and nail his opening drive down the fairway in
the second Foursomes match of the Ryder Cup.
Get in: Keegan Bradley celebrates
As last year's USPGA winner Keegan should be equipped to deal with the major moments, that title earning him repeat chants of 'Major winner!' before he teed off, designed to mock his opponents Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who have so far fallen short of that honour.
The family Bradley – which includes Auntie Pat, one of America's best women golfers – need not have worried, for that drive up the first was the precursor to one of the finest debut days ever seen in the competition.
The 26 year-old from Vermont capped a magnificent display with his belly putter by holing a monster on the fifteenth to down Donald and Garcia four and three before lunch, and afterwards he helped derail the European juggernaut of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell two and one alongside Phil Mickelson.
More than anyone, even Nicolas Colsaerts, Bradley made this the day of the rookie, and with his wired, eye-bulging intensity he turned out to be America's answer to Ian Poulter. Asked if he was tired at the end he blurted 'Oh baby, I could go 36 more.'
Up for it: Bradley after nearly making a long eagle putt on the 15th
Another massive achievement was that he
managed to turn Mickelson into some kind of Ryder Cup titan rather than
the wimp he has often looked in this competition.
Against Europe's go-to pairing in the afternoon Bradley, lining up his
putts with the look of a psychopath planning some dastardly deed,
delivered five birdies to establish a three hole lead.
When his level then dropped a little Mickelson was inspired to step into
the breach, carving out a series of halves against McIlroy to protect
it, culminating with a sensational drive on the seventeenth over the
water to win their second point .
Over these three days the Americans desperately need their veteran
triumvirate of Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk, who have been the
wobbly spine of the team for the past fifteen years, to come good.
Delight: Bradley celebrates victory over Donald and Garcia
They bear the most responsibility for America's sliding performance in
the bi-annual as a virtual common denominator in the turnaround of the
Europeans' fortunes that goes back to Mickelson's debut in 1995.
The Californian has four Majors, but prior to yesterday he had played in
eight Ryder Cups and won just fourteen points from 34 matches, too
often going missing when his team most needed him.
Woods has only a marginally better record and Furyk one even worse, but
at least Mickleson yesterday started to look more backbone than
invertebrate, thanks to the company of someone who was barely nine when
he made his Ryder Cup debut.