The first day of the 2012 Ryder Cup is complete and the United States team holds a 5-3 lead over their European opponents heading into the weekend, an edge the Americans will look to expand on Saturday.
U.S. Captain Davis Love III is sticking to his gameplan from Friday, pairing many of the same teams together for Saturday's morning matches. Love will send out Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, who played exceptionally well on Friday afternoon by winning their match 5 and 4 against Europe's Paul Lawrie and Peter Hansen. Both Simpson and Watson sat out Friday morning's foursome matches, and Love stated the two were anxious to get on the course later in the day.
"I knew they would be rested and ready to go," said Love in the media center following play of Friday. "I just didn't know they would be that ready."
In the day's second match, Love sends out the red-hot pairing of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley who will once again tackle Medinah Country Club after having won both of their matches Friday. Next on the schedule is the team of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, which also had success on Friday's morning foursomes by defeating the team of Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari 3 and 2.
Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk will anchor the morning for the United States despite having lost to the European team of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy in the tournament's opening match. This is a surprising move from Captain Love, especially since the victorious team of Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson will sit Saturday morning.
On the contrary, European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal had a massive task Friday evening deciding his morning pairings before what former Euro-captain Colin Montgomerie called "the most important round of the Ryder Cup: Saturday". After falling behind 5 to 3 while sitting his three most successful Ryder Cup players (Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter) in Friday's afternoon session, Olazabal's coaching was questioned following the opening matches.
Olazabal quickly made some notable changes for his team's next day of competition. Justin Rose will team with Poulter against the team of Watson and Simpson in Saturday's opening group at 8:20am EST. Rose and Poulter were successful against the Steve Stricker/Tiger Woods pairing in foursomes Friday, and the team will be looking for a repeat performance in day two.
Luke Donald will now pair with Lee Westwood -- a switch in partners from traditionally playing with Sergio Garcia in past team competition -- and will take on the Mickelson/Bradley team. Westwood is typically known for his closing ability in Ryder Cup matches, so his pairing with the aggressive and risk-taking Garcia may have a positive effect for the Europeans.
Olazabal chose instead to pair Garcia with day one's most-valuable-European Nicolas Colsaerts, who dazzled Medinah's crowds with eight birdies and one eagle Friday afternoon. The team will take on the Dufner/Johnson team from America in what should be Saturday morning's feature match.
Finally, the first rematch of the Ryder Cup is set as Euro captain Olazabal will send Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy against the U.S. team of Furyk and Snedeker.
If Europe has any hope of retaining the Ryder Cup, they will likely need to have the exact opposite performance from Friday and better the Americans by a minimum of 5 to 3 on Saturday. Doing so will tie the overall score at 8-8, which means the Euros would only need to win six points to America's six and one-half during Sunday's singles competition.