MEDINAH, Ill. — Through the miracle of technology, I was listening to the BBC Radio broadcast of the Ryder Cup on a portable gadget while following the Friday morning foursomes (alternate-shot) match between Team Europe’s Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood and Team USA’s Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.
They were at the ninth tee of Medinah Country Club No. 3 with the European pair ahead by one hole.
“They seem nervous,” said the English commentator whose name I don’t know. “They’re not hitting good shots. They’re not talking to each other walking down the fairway.”
Less than 15 minutes later, Dufner struck a 15-foot birdie putt that hung on the edge of the cup tantalizingly, then fell in for a birdie to win the hole after Johnson’s very nice approach shot set it up. At first, Johnson was bent over in agony because it didn’t look like the putt would fall. Then, his mouth opened wide in shocked happiness.
And he indeed was talking to Dufner on the walk to the 10th tee. They were friends before the match and never stopped being friends during it. The announcer simply read too much into things, thought he was correct that the two Americans hadn’t really gotten much going on the first holes.
When Dufner cashed another 15-footer for birdie on the following hole after Johnson had made a nice shot from a greenside bunker, the pair went 1-up. Johnson did a double fist-pump on the edge of the green. It was a lead they would keep.
They took turns either making excellent shots, or bailing out each other after less-than-stellar plays.
On the par-4 No. 12, Dufner’s second shot was well short of the green, in the left rough. Johnson’s pitch struck a leaf on a bottom branch, but lost no momentum as it found its way close enough to the pin to be conceded for a par, and the Americans halved the hole.
On the par-5 14th, Johnson’s tee shot went way right, but Dufner hit the second shot through a human tunnel to the fairway, Johnson put the third shot on the green, and the pair saved par while their European counterparts could do no better.
The next hole, a par-4, saw Westwood’s tee shot sail into the pond on the right side of the fairway. Dufner’s tee shot was money, and from 100 yards out in the center of the fairway, Johnson put the second shot to within five feet of the cup. It was 2-up with three to play.
Dufner’s approach on the par-4 16th landed in a frontside bunker, but Johnson’s sand shot was great, and the tap-in par putt was conceded by the Europeans, who then bogeyed the hole.
It was Dufner and Johnson, 3 and 2. They, along with the pairing of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, were the U.S.’ two morning winners. The teams of Jim Furyk/xxx Johnson’s Ryder Cup career record improved to 4-3-1, while it was Dufner’s debut in the event. He was his stoic self, and played beautifully.
“I think today was a day that when it came to foursomes, we did exactly what we should do,” Johnson said. “and that was never really take yourself out of the hole, put yourself in a position to make putts, and just keep fighting and stay in the moment.”
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