MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) – Keegan Bradley called his Ryder Cup debut “the best day of my life.'' Barely 24 hours later, somehow it got even better.
After stealing the show Friday with back-to-back wins, Bradley again partnered with Phil Mickelson to make beating the Europeans look easy. This time, the Americans punished Englishmen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald 7 and 6, tying the record for the biggest margin of victory in an alternate-shot match.
The only thing wider at Medinah Country Club was the grin on Bradley's mug. No U.S. rookie has gone 3-0 at the Ryder Cup since Loren Roberts in 1995. The last European to turn the trick was Sergio Garcia in 1999, who halved his fourth match and then lost in singles. That may explain why U.S. captain Davis Love III decided not to tempt fate by giving Bradley and Mickelson the afternoon session off.
“Phil was giving me a pep talk early in the round, saying we need to come out hot against these two great players,'' Bradley said. “We were lucky enough to do that.''
Lucky? Bradley, a right-hander, and Mickelson, a lefty, meshed so well in the alternate-shot format, they looked like mirror images of the same golfer. They went 1 up on No. 1 with a birdie, made five more after that and didn't lose a single hole. Both have putted well, and Bradley's length of the tee plays right into Mickelson's strengths – his approach play and an uncanny ability to clean up missed shots with his short game.
But in addition to their complementary styles, what has made them unbeatable is how Bradley, 26, and Mickelson, 42, deploy their energy and experience to the benefit of both. Mickelson even compared their partnership to the great Spanish duo of the late Seve Ballesteros and current European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, the most successful pairing in Ryder Cup history.
“To partake in his great play and experience the Ryder Cup together,'' Mickelson said, “has been awesome. … It brought our best golf out.''
Bradley, who won the PGA Championship in 2011, said his sky-high confidence was a direct result of playing alongside Mickelson. Bradley doubted he'd be pumping his fist after nearly every big putt, or shamelessly daring the galleries to get even louder if this were an individual competition, as opposed to team play.
“I would never do that in a stroke-play event. I mean I do – in my career, I've had big moments where I've showed my emotions. But here, I always know Phil is going to be there, whether I missed the green or hit it in the woods … It's just very relaxing to know I have a Hall of Fame partner that knows how to get it up and in from anywhere on the course.''
Bradley acknowledged that their caddies have reminded both him and Mickelson to tone down the occasional celebration on the course, if only to conserve energy. That might also explain why, after walking back and forth to root on teammates in the remaining morning matches, they commandeered a golf cart to do their cheerleading.
“I can barely contain myself,'' Bradley said.
He wasn't kidding.
The two golfers followed the final morning match – Americans Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker vs. Europe's Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell – all the way to the 18th hole. Halfway down the fairway, Mickelson and wife Amy got off to walk the rest of the way. Just before the cart roared toward the final green, Bradley clambered onto the back step and clinging to the railing with one hand, he used the other to pump his fist and whip up the crowd in the grandstand.
Back down the fairway, his captain watched the scene with what must have been mixed emotions. After giving Bradley the rest of the day to take it easy, Love could not have been thrilled to see his team's biggest star risk getting injured on a cheerleading expedition.