Eubanks: Watson-Simpson win will reverberate
It only counted for one point, but Steve Eubanks says the 5 & 4 shellacking that Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson put on Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson had a much bigger impact.
By Steve Eubanks, PGA.com
MEDINAH, Ill. -- Vince Lombardi once said, “Beat your opponent where he is strongest, and you demoralize him.”
Lombardi died eight years before Bubba Watson was born and he’d been gone 15 years when Webb Simpson entered the world. But the old coach would have loved watching the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champions demoralize Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, and in so doing, send shivers of doubt through the entire European Ryder Cup team.
It’s only one point -- and on Day 1, no less -- no different than a 1-up squeaker. But the 5 and 4 shellacking Bubba and Webb put on their opponents had a much bigger impact, one that not only affected the tone of the matches Friday afternoon, but could carry over for the rest of the weekend.
Because Captain Davis Love III sent them out first after lunch, it was impossible for the rest of the players to miss what was happening. Even if you didn’t see the red on the board starting at the opening hole, you couldn’t miss the roars. Bubba and Webb were 10 under as a team through 14 holes and they shot a best-ball 29 on the front.
It was the most dominating performance of Day 1, a crowd-pleasing show that included 370-yard drives and holed putts from seemingly everywhere.
The momentum built with the noise as they went 3-up, 4-up, 5-up, and then 6-up before losing their only hole of the day to a birdie at 11.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley could see much of it going on ahead of them, and they could hear it all. Mickelson and Bradley fed off the energy and built a 4-up lead through eight on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar also found their groove, building a 3-up lead on Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer while Bubba and Webb were on the course.
“When you have a partner who you think can make every putt, you can relax and go ahead and hit it,” Bubba said. “We never made it complicated; we just played golf and had a great time.”
The only players seemingly immune to Bubbamentum were Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker who struggled in the afternoon as they did in the morning. Going out last, the anchor match was 2-down to Lee Westwood and Nicholas Colsaerts when Webb and Bubba closed out their match.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Bubba said. “Since my dad has been gone I’ve played some good golf; I’ve won the Masters; I’ve got a son, and now I’m in the Ryder Cup again. Just playing with a buddy who can keep me cool, and knowing that he’s going play really good. Obviously, what this means to me and the United States flag and my dad not being here: it’s just wild.”
Now, they go back to the team rooms. Bubba and Webb will be greeted as returning heroes, showered with compliments and encouragement to keep it going tomorrow.
But what will Lawrie and Hanson say? Shrugging off such an important loss won’t work. Everyone will see it as disingenuous. But dwelling on it won’t accomplish much either.
“I think we ran into a bit of a wall,” Hanson said immediately afterward, the wide-eyed look of shock still etched on his face. “They were 9 under through the first 10 holes, and we just couldn’t jump on that train. That birdie train left, and we were 6 down after 10. It’s hard to get that back.”
They will no doubt try to forget it, and their Captain Olazabal will certainly remind them that it was only one point, no different than losing 18 to a birdie after 17 halves.
But that, too, sounds like whistling past the graveyard.
The Europeans have historically owned the four-ball competition. So, this was beating them badly at their strength.
It was, in short, a demoralizing defeat.