MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - The Ryder Cup has seen many great partnerships but never one quite like Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who have turned a May-September bromance into golf’s dynamic duo.
Bradley, a fiery rookie and Mickelson, the most experienced member of the American brigade making his ninth appearance at the biennial competition, have developed the type of chemistry rarely seen on a U.S. Ryder Cup team.
With three wins from three matches at stately Medinah Country Club, Mickelson and Bradley have become Ryder Cup rock stars whipping the massive galleries into a frenzy with every high-five and fist-pump.
Europe has produced the Ryder Cup’s most memorable and enduring partnerships with the pairing of Spanish giants Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal at the top of the list.
Olazabal, Europe’s captain at Medinah and Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer a year ago but remains the inspirational touchstone for Europeans, formed an almost unbeatable partnership, producing an astonishing 11 wins and two halves from 15 matches.
Britons Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood managed six victories out of nine matches and Scotsman Colin Montgomerie and German Bernhard Langer five wins from seven.
But the U.S. has never really come close to developing an iconic partnership, Arnold Palmer and Gardiner Dickinson were the most successful American pairing, manufacturing five wins from five matches while Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson were 4-0 together.
“Well, certainly not on the American side,” Mickelson told reporters when asked if the Americans had ever had two players so invested in each other.
“The European side has had some great team mates with Seve and Ollie and some others but to be able to share this experience with Keegan and to partake in his great play and experience the Ryder Cup together has been really awesome.”
Bradley made a dazzling Ryder Cup debut on Friday, dropping the clinching putt in a 4&3 win over Briton Luke Donald and Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the foursomes.
Mickelson had the honors in the afternoon fourball landing a pinpoint tee shot at the 17th that ended the match with a handshake and world number one Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell conceding a 2&1 defeat.
Bradley and Mickelson then flexed their muscles in Saturday’s foursomes with a record equaling 7&6 thrashing of Britons Lee Westwood and Donald to the thundering approval of the pro-American crowd.
Their margin of victory matched the wins earned by Hale Irwin and Tom Kite over Ken Brown and Des Smyth at the 1979 Ryder Cup, and by Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara over Nick Faldo and David Gilford in 1991.
With the U.S. up 8-4, captain Davis Love III decided to give his lead pair a rest from Saturday afternoon’s fourball matches to have them fresh for Sunday’s singles.
“Phil gets his break this afternoon and he was asking for his break,” said Love. “After all that great golf, he wanted his break because he knows how important tomorrow is going to be.
“The thing about it is historically and mathematically the guys that have played five matches have not done as well in the singles and we want to make sure we’re rested and focused.”
With 40 PGA Tour wins, including four majors, Mickelson has always been rated as one of the game’s best but has never found anyone capable of bringing out his creativity in Ryder Cup competition, which was reflected in his 11-17-6 record coming into Medinah.
But in Bradley, Mickelson has found a partner who can pull the best out in his game.
“I felt young and it felt great,” said Mickelson. “I love playing with Keegan. (Editing by Julian Linden)