THERE were recriminations post-Medinah when the star pairing of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were rested in the final foursomes despite winning three out of three in earlier sessions. Fast forward two years and captain Tom Watson was under the spotlight yesterday for his decision not to give them an afternoon off.
Forced to head out for their second 18 holes less than an hour after they had defeated the lauded line-up of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia in the morning fourballs to extend their unbeaten run as a Ryder Cup duo, 44-year-old Mickelson looked jaded as he struggled through the afternoon round against the vibrant rookie Victor Dubuisson and his experienced partner, Graeme McDowell.
The Europeans were three up by the time they exited the fifth green, thanks in no small part to some lapses in the multiple-major winner’s putting, and although the Americans dug deep to battle back into things and keep themselves in contention as they made the turn, they were no match for a duo who had spent the early part of the day spectating, desperate to get involved.
They were a double act worth waiting for. The young Frenchman who negotiated his first round of Ryder Cup golf like the superstar his playing partner insists he is, admitted he had been nervous in the build-up. There was no trace of that as he played his way down the first, before finding the cup for a par and halving the hole.
Whether it was his first putt, his first drive [which came off the second tee moments later] or his first hustle from the rough, he looked like he had been there and played every shot before and he was impressive on his way to his first point.
He said that was down to the encouragement and the support of McDowell, the pair working well to vindicate the view many had held beforehand that this was a dream partnership in the making.
Gelling together as a team, they complemented each other in the good times and bailed each other out in the tougher moments and they stabilised well after letting the US back into it over the eighth and ninth.
They bounced back by birdieing the tenth and two holes later they had re-established their three-hole advantage. That was the point when Dubuisson’s seemingly unflappable temperament was most evident.
Having taken a comfort break on the way to the 12th tee it was only after he had rejoined the group that he realised he had left his putter in the toilet. One of the vice-captains was dispatched to retrieve it as the guys got on with the business of winning the hole.
Mickelson may have been dog tired at that point but he retained his dogged determination, USA winning the 13th to keep themselves in it. But Dubuisson and McDowell put it beyond them on the 16th, the elder partner holing the putt that gave them the insurmountable lead, moving them three ahead with only two to play.