GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Apparently, American captain Tom Watson isn’t going to play it safe this week.
Watson had observers buzzing Thursday when he sent two rookies out in the opening round, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. It proved to be a smart move as the rookies blitzed Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher by a 5 and 4 margin. Watson had everyone buzzing again, however, when he benched his hot rookies for the afternoon foursomes session.
Both captains followed through on their goal to get all 12 players a match on the opening day, but after that big win, certainly the Americans’ highlight of the morning, it was a shock that Reed and Spieth won’t go back out for alternate shot.
Here’s how the afternoon pairings shape up:
Match 5: Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, U.S. vs. Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood, Europe. It was a little odd that Furyk, the American ranked highest in the world at No. 4, was on the sideline for the opening match along with Kuchar, perhaps the most consistent player on Tour. Westwood is an excellent ballstriker who makes a good alternate shot partner, but with the winds up, scrambling for pars proved just as important than making birdies. The pick: U.S.
Match 6: Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson, U.S. vs. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Europe. Rose and Stenson won big in the morning and are a formidable team, plus they’ve already got a read on the greens after one session. This one’s a tossup, but Rose and Stenson managed five birdies on a tough morning. The pick: Europe.
Match 7: Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, U.S. vs. Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy, Europe. The Americans escaped with a crucial halve in the morning thanks to some clutch play by Walker, who holed a bunker shot, chipped in for a key win at 16 and holed a winner at 18 to avoid a loss. Sergio and Rory are the top European team, however, and didn’t hit their stride until late in the morning match. The pick: Europe.
Match 8: Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, U.S. vs. Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell, Europe. Bradley and Mickelson didn’t find many fairways in the morning and made three bogeys through the first 15 holes, a serious no-no in fourball play. Their errant swings in the gusty wind — they’re both high-ball hitters — may not play well in alternate shot. McDowell is a straight hitter and Dubuisson is a superb scrambler. They’ll be tough to beat. The pick: Europe.