Tour Confidential Daily: Where did the Americans go wrong on Friday afternoon?

September 28, 2018

GOLF.com conducts a weekly roundtable with its staff to break down the game’s hottest topics every Sunday evening. This week for the Ryder Cup we are answering one burning question each night. Check back for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.

The U.S. opened the 42nd Ryder Cup with a strong fourballs session to lead 3-1 early, but that didn’t last. The Europeans ran away with the afternoon foursomes session, sweeping all four matches in convincing fashion and taking a 5-3 advantage into the weekend. Where did the Americans go wrong on Friday afternoon?

Jessica Marksbury: Yesterday’s worries about playing Phil in alternate shot came true. That was unfortunate. And Team USA’s inability to make putts. It always comes down to putting, and the Americans were just shellacked by the Euros in that department.

Jeff Ritter: It’s not like Europe played that great – three of its pairings combined to finish one under, while Sergio-Noren went three under for 14 holes. The U.S. stunk it up, going a combined 11 over. Might be time for captain Furyk to trot a few tried and true alternate-shot pairings – like Reed-Spieth, Rickie-JT and Brooks-DJ – to name three.

Alan Bastable: Yep, the Yanks just kinda stunk. Eight birdies over four matches just ain’t gonna get it done. Clearly there’s only one way Capt. Furyk can right the ship Saturday: two sessions of Tiger-Phil.

Sean Zak: I’m not sure they did anything wrong in the afternoon other than play bad golf. Pairings-wise, Furyk wanted to live by the fallacy that everyone needs to play one match Friday. He had three options (DJ/Fowler, JT/Spieth and Koepka/Finau) to slot into two spots. He chose the first two, and they managed to make a combined ZERO birdies on their front nines. Bad golf. What are you gonna do?

Michael Bamberger: I would say the chances of Europe going 4-0 in the afternoon are 1 in 16 times. In match play, it is such a huge advantage to get on the board first, but in the afternoon only Webb-‘n-Watson managed that. Maybe the 3-1 morning lead left the Americans feeling less-than-aggressive. I wouldn’t know. But in better-ball play, when talent is about the same, aggressiveness usually carries the day. It’s a birdie contest.

bubba watson ryder cup
It wasn’t a great afternoon for Bubba Watson and the rest of the U.S. squad on Friday in Paris.
Getty Images

Dylan Dethier: Bubba and Phil made no sense to put out in alternate shot. In this space yesterday I called that decision “sketchy,” and I stand by that because: a. Their wild playing styles; b. Their recent form; c. The course conditions (windy, cool, tricky); and d. Their Ryder Cup alternate-shot history (5-9-4 combined). If Captain Furyk wanted to be sure to get everyone in the lineup today (a fair goal), Phil/Bubba would have made more sense in a calm morning fourball, which allows for some big holes.

Luke Kerr-Dineen: I’m not giving Furyk a pass here, because a lot of what went wrong in the afternoon were self-inflicted errors. By front-loading his team in the morning session, he forced himself into some badly mis-matched pairings in the afternoon. Phil Mickelson ranks 192nd in driving accuracy, and you play him in foursomes? Webb Simpson ranks 173rd in rough proximity, and you pair him with Bubba Watson? I wrote yesterday a Bubba-Webb foursomes pairing is a disaster waiting to happen, and today you saw why. Sure, the U.S. didn’t make their fair share of putts, but make no mistake: Furyk compounded that bad luck by screwing up his pairings.

Josh Sens: Second guessing is easy, but I’m with Dylan that the Phil/DeChambeau pairing looked iffy all along. I felt the same about the Bubba/Simpson marriage, given that neither has ever looked too comfortable in past Ryder Cup appearances. But what’s done is done. If you’re keen on finding dispiriting signs for the Americans, you might focus on the fact that neither Spieth nor Reed appears to be in peak form.