COMMENTARY | The first day of the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago lived up to its top billing, providing plenty of great moments. But it also showed us that the scope of the storied international competition has changed.
This isn't your father's Ryder Cup, and the results don't tell the whole story. Here are ten things we learned on Day 1:
1. Davis Love was smart, almost genius-like
Sit Tiger Woods? That's what ESPN announcer and former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger thought was the best move for Team USA captain Davis Love III to make given the top-ranked American's struggles in the opening round on Day 1.
But Love stuck to his game plan and sent the marquee pairing out again for the afternoon four-ball match. It was fitting that the action on the 18th featured Woods / Steve Stricker with Woods facing a birdie putt to win the United States team a half-point. He missed it, but he made huge birdies on 16 and 17 to extend the match with their backs against the wall.
2. Tiger has some magic left
There were some vintage Tiger moments on Day 1, specifically in his second round. Club twirls and fist pumps were ever-present as the American pairing made their way around the course. Though they lost twice on the day, they gave a red-hot European team a run for their money, taking the lopsided match to eighteen holes behind the aforementioned birdies, despite a historic round from one of Europe's relative unknowns. More on that shortly.
3. Rory goes down
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy had a bull's eye on his back coming into the Ryder Cup for good reason. He's been virtually unbeatable in 2012 and is a two-time major champion.
That was all put aside in the afternoon when the pairing of Mickelson and Bradley took down the pairing featuring McIlroy and Grahame McDowell, 2&1 and looked relaxed doing it. The youngster from Northern Ireland has shown resiliency under pressure before, so a bounce back performance is likely. Team USA has to counter with its own best shot and will be ready.
4. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson are perfect partners
Like a caged predator ready to pounce on its prey, the pairing of Watson and Simpson struck early and often as they faced an overmatched tandem of Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson. They won the match in a rout, 5&4, and gave the American team momentum that would result in a dominant afternoon that saw the United States win three out of four four-ball matches.
5. Who was that Belgian guy?
Europe's captain's pick Nicholas Colsaerts played out of his mind in the afternoon in his first Ryder Cup after coming into the event as a virtual unknown. Arguably the longest hitter in the entire event, he showed that he has plenty of all-around game and is going to be a factor. He made eight birdies and an eagle in one of the strongest individual performances in Ryder Cup history.
His greatest moment came on the 17th hole in the afternoon's fourball match against Woods / Stricker. He dropped a lengthy birdie putt after Woods knocked it close with a chance for the Americans to win the hole and square the match. Instead, Woods' sure thing turned into a knee-knocker for birdie, which me made to extend the match.
6. Justin Rose will be Europe's 'X' factor
Justin Rose is playing some of the best golf of his career, and it showed on Friday during Day 1. He was solid tee to green and won two matches in each format, showcasing his strong all-around game. He's currently the world's fifth ranked player, and he showed why on Friday.
7. The home crowd isn't pulling any punches
When it comes to home-course advantage, Team USA was clearly feeling the love from the Chicago-area crowd. The crowd was supportive of the players and made it clear to the Europeans that they were perfectly fine with the visitors missing a putt or three.
One moment that stood out was when Colsaerts made the key birdie putt that carried Europe to a critical victory. Looking for some gallery adulation, he got almost no cheers from the crowd.
Golf is normally a gentlemen's game where opponents respectfully encourage one another. But this crowd in this atmosphere at this golf tournament won't be doing any of that. It'll make for a an exciting tournament.
8. Bubba Watson has a little Happy Gilmore in him
Speaking of the atmosphere, Bubba Watson got the home crowd into the afternoon four-ball matches by telling the first-tee onlookers to keep the cheers loud as he teed off -- normally taboo in the world of golf.
Movie buffs will remember Happy Gilmore famously telling his crowd to get fired up and buck the convention of being quiet during his opening tee shot. Watson did virtually the same thing, and it was beautiful. The best sight was seeing a tournament official "raise the roof" on the tee box behind Watson.
It's what golf should be like every day, and it's why Watson is the most entertaining player in the game.
9. Europe won't go down with a fight
As dominant as the United States looked on Day 1, they only lead by two points heading into the final two days. That's a big concern considering Team USA has only won two of the last eight Ryder Cups.
The Americans have not had a lot of success on the first day historically, but 2012 was different. Facing a deficit in the afternoon matches, Europe showed that it was not going to fade away. Colsaerts' clutch putting was evidence of that.
10. Keegan Bradley really enjoys the Ryder Cup
And the award for player who had the most fun on the golf course on Friday goes to 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley. He high-fived and fist-pumped his way around the course twice with veteran Phil Mickelson as his partner, and it was clear that he gave lefty some new life with his energy.
He's going to sleep well on Friday night, and so will Team USA with a two point cushion.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the PGA TOUR. He is a California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger, and you can read him at SB Nation, Bleacher Report and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets.
Source: ESPN Live Broadcast of The 2012 Ryder Cup