DUBLIN, Ohio — Golf doesn't have a two-minute warning, but golf is always more exciting when you're racing against a setting sun. That's true when you're 12 and trying to play 72 holes in a day, and it's true when you're Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, trying to secure the first point of the second day of these 10th President Cup matches. That duo, playing Jason Day and Graham DeLaet in the leadoff position on Friday's alternate shot, could not be more entertaining.
Going out in 30, that was just a warm-up act for what happened on the back six. K-P and the Sunshine Band (backed by Pepsi and Bones) won 10. They won 11. They won 12, which put them six up with six to play. An American loss, of course, is impossible. A tie is deeply improbable. The question you, as a fan, is asking is a question a calm, cool professional never wants to ask: when is thing going to be over?
As Tiger Woods likes to say, "whoopsie daisy." Those crazy American kids — Phil is 43 and his body has been through the wars but you'd never know it when you see him with Bradley — lost 13. They lost 14. Mickelson had the odd tees and he hit a good one on 15, an uphill par-5, about 530 yards. A birdie's going to end the day. Not guaranteed, but pretty close.
And now comes the good part, Keegan Bradley with a hybrid in hand. He'd already hit one 270. Phil got a kick out of that. The poor guy, he's wired so tight and so jumpy he was surely a racehorse or something in a previous life, if you go for that whole Eastern thing. Jason Day is 40 yards behind him, fussing around. Jason Day, nice kid but painfully slow, is no Glen Day, no relation to the owner of one of the most fitting nicknames in the history of modern golf (All Day). But he's dangerously close to getting that name for himself.
So here's Keegan. Twirl, twirl, twirl. Spit. Look back to see what the dark-haired Aussie, married to lovely daughter of the Buckeye state and a member of Muirfield Village, is up to. Fussing around. Phil is 20 feet away, watching the whole thing unfold, bemused. He knows what Keegan maybe does not, that this match is going to conclude before sunset. There will be no five a.m. wakeup call.
Finally, Day plays and Keegan is up. Hit one on the face and the day is likely over. Bradley gets behind it, like a sprinter in the blocks. One false start, another false start, another false start. Like, the shoulders roll forward, as if he 's going to make his move to the ball, but then he doesn't. At this point, Mickelson is flatout fascinated. He's seen this whole thing before, in majors and money-game practice rounds and at various other times, but this setting is different. Everybody knows.
For one thing, he can see what Bradley is wearing. Charcoal-gray slacks right out of the Hogan playbook. Blue-and-white striped shirt. Red baseball cap. (Shoes seemingly borrowed from Michael Jordan that would just kill at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, not far from the team hotel in downtown Columbus.) Phil, of course, has the same duds, except he's sporting a brown alligator-leather belt and matching shoes. The point is, it's a uniform. An American uniform. They're playing for country.
So finally, Bradley goes, out of the starting blocks and into the batter's box, and he unleashes something so violent the shot is nearly a popup but close enough for Mickelson to stiff the chip and Bradley to tap in the putt for four and for the Americans to post the first point of the day, which ended with the Americans leading the Internationals 4.5-3.5. As the man screeched way back when, The first cut is the deepest. That point will loom large come Sunday — or not. It certainly made Friday night easier.
"I love showing off in front of him and I think he likes showing off in front of me," Bradley said later, in the gloaming. He was still amped-up, almost like one of those March Madness insta-stars, doing a courtside interview after holing a 25-foot buzzer-beater.
At the Ryder Cup last year, Mickelson and Bradley went 3-0. Here, a guess is that they'll wind up playing four times. As they go, so will the U.S. team. You could say the same of Woods and (as Fred Couples likes to say in his Seattle accent and informal way) Matty Koocher. This is what every U.S. Ryder Cup captain and Presidents Cup captain, going back to Tom Kite, spent their nights dreaming about: Phil and Tiger, playing the way they can, and playing with suitable playing partners.
Mickelson knew what others did not: that his match was always going to finish on Friday. "It never crossed my mind that we might not," he said Friday night. He knew. Once Keegan Bradley had that hybrid in his hand, playing from the fairway on 15, he knew. Not that it was over. Yogi will be quoted in these situations for all of eternity. What he knew was that he had his playing partner in the right place at the right time and that it was time to warm up the soup.