Steve Eubanks: On-course emotion works both ways

Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson have fed off the gallery's energy.

Eubanks: On-course emotion works both ways

Emotion on the course can work both ways. The Mickelson-Bradley duo thrived Saturday morning, says Steve Eubanks, while the Watson-Simpson team might have suffered a bit from the gallery's energy.

By Steve Eubanks,

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Emotion and energy on a golf course are like jet fuel: powerful, but extremely dangerous. Sometimes it propels you to heights and speeds you never thought possible. And sometimes it explodes, destroying everything in its path.

Case in point was the Saturday morning session at Medinah.  

Certainly the energy was higher than ever. The National Anthem and “God Bless America” were sung with gusto from the grandstands before 7:00 a.m., and when Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson walked across the bridge to the first tee, the “Let’s go Cubbies” chat became “major winners,” followed by three quick claps. 

Not to be completely outdone, European fans chanted “We’ll win in magenta,” a reference to their side’s uniform colors for the day.  

The adrenalin rush could be felt everywhere, especially after Bubba and Ian Poulter encouraged the crowd to roar during their opening tee shots. It looked more like a home run derby than a golf event.

Fans continued to rev things up. Americans got creative and reworded the European’s “Ole, ole, ole” song to be “You’re still away / away, away, away, away.” 

That was sung a lot during the Watson-Simpson match with Poulter-Rose as Bubba drove it between 50 and 65 yards past Poulter all morning. 

But that kind of energy can also be distracting. Bubba seemed particularly moved by all the calls for him to “Do it for the USA.” Walking off the eighth tee, his eyes reddened and welled and his face tightened when a fan shouted “God bless you, Bubba, and God bless America.”

Emotion and energy must be handled with care. In the case of Watson and Simpson, the looseness and enthusiasm could only take them so far. When it came time to focus on the shots, for a stretch at least, they lost it.  

Bubba did his best to keep his partner and friend calm, even going so far as to tease him about his length. After Simpson hit a decent drive, Watson turned to his caddy and said, “Well, Teddy, it ain’t long but it ain’t wrong. Maybe I can get a 4-wood on from there.”  

The joking turned to encouragement as the Americans went from 1-up to 2-down in a four hole-stretch. They didn’t flame out, but the momentum was gone, even when Simpson had a 12-footer on the final hole to salvage a halve.  

“We just kept missing putts,” Bubba said afterward. “We could never get any momentum going our way. They were holing putts; they were playing great, and they just beat us.”  

On the other side, Keegan Bradley fed off the energy, glowing and growing as he sucked it all in. He and Phil Mickelson never trailed, birdieing one and two to go 2 up and then birdieing 7, 9, and 10 to stretch their lead to an insurmountable 6-up. When Lee Westwood and Luke Donald bogeyed the 12th and Mickelson hit one of the best recovery shots of the week, a wedge that spun right off a slope and stopped less than a foot from the hole, the hottest team on either side got their third win of these matches in record-setting fashion, closing the Europeans out 7 and 6.  

“To share this experience with Keegan and to partake in his great play and experience the Ryder Cup together has been really awesome,” Mickelson said. “We’ve had so much fun. The crowd has provided so much energy, and it’s brought our best golf out.”  

Captain Davis Love will catch heat for sitting Mickelson and Bradley on Saturday afternoon, even though he hinted that he intended to run shifts and stick to his game plan no matter what. 

But sitting them down is probably a wise choice, even though it only took them only 44 out of 54 holes to win three matches. 

Fuel can only burn that hot for so long. It’s probably best to let that engine rest for awhile.