MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Like a doting father, Davis Love III was brimming with pride after watching his rookies clean up on the opening day of the Ryder Cup on Friday.
Spurning conventional wisdom by throwing his first timers into the deep end of golf’s ultimate test of nerves, Love’s instincts paid off when the Americans snatched a 5-3 lead at the end of the first day.
His four debutants contributed to four of the team’s five points, with Keegan Bradley, playing with Phil Mickelson, winning both his matches and Jason Dufner, paired with Zach Johnson, as well as Webb Simpson, who teamed up with Bubba Watson, also tasting victory.
The only rookie not to win his match was Brandt Snedeker who was beaten on the final hole by the top European pairing of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell when he was paired with Jim Furyk.
“Everybody kept calling them rookies, but they’re proven Tour winners and FedExCup winners and guys that have played very, very well lately,” Love said.
“So we weren’t considering them rookies except in the Ryder Cup.”
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar won their four-ball match in the afternoon but the biggest surprise in the U.S. camp was that the experienced pair of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker lost both their matches.
Love said he was not unhappy with the way Woods and Stricker played but decided to rest them from Saturday’s fourballs, marking the first time in his seven Ryder Cup appearances that Woods has been left out of a session.
“It’s a team effort and Tiger and Steve are very supportive friends of mine,” Love said.
”They told me they would do whatever I asked them to do, and I can guarantee you, neither one of them are very happy about it.
“Not because they are sitting out, because they have to wait till tomorrow afternoon to come back.”
While the U.S. ended the day in front, it was not all smooth sailing for the powerful American team. At one stage in the morning, they trailed in all four matches before splitting them 2-2.
In the afternoon they seized their chance, winning three of the four matches, highlighted by Watson and Simpson’s 5&4 drubbing of Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson - the biggest win by an American pair for 17 years.
”We were down, but we were only one down this morning on a lot of matches,“ Love said. ”Everybody played real well and hung in there and had a lot of fun.
“It seemed like as the sun came out, we just got better and better. It’s just nice to see those scores, those 5&4s and 3&2s, and it’s nice when you get on a roll like that.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney