Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley dominated the team portion of the 39th Ryder Cup, at Medinah Country Club. Following a shocking 7&6 thrashing of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood (currently the third and fourth ranked players in the world) on Saturday morning, September 29th, they have run their record to a perfect three wins and zero losses. This is a look at the performance of Mickelson and Bradley, as well as those of the top 5 Ryder Cup pairings of all time.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley (2012): Phil and Keegan scored the first point for Team USA in Friday's foursomes, with a surprisingly easy 4&3 win over Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. Donald and Garcia entered with a combined 14 win, 0 loss, 1 tie record (with other partners) in Ryder Cup foursomes.
Friday's fourball match was next, against Rory McIlroy (#1 world ranking) and Graeme McDowell. A perfect team, the Americans started with a Bradley birdie at #1, Mickelson birdie at #2, and Bradley birdie at #3, for a quick 3-up lead. After that the margin was never less than two, with the match ending when Mickelson's tee shot at the 193-yard 17th resulted in a conceded birdie and a 2&1 victory.
In the Saturday morning foursomes match, against Donald and Westwood, Mickelson and Bradley again started strong with back-to-back birdies on the first two holes. The result, seven ahead with six holes remaining, is nearly perfect. The Americans never lost a hole, and they seem to be getting better and better. Considering that their victims include three of the top four ranked players in the world, it's hard to imagine a more dominant duo.
Here are my choices as the top 5 Ryder Cup pairings of all time:
5. Colin Montgomerie and Berhard Langer, 5 wins-1 loss- 1 tie (1997, 2002): In 1997 Montgomerie and Langer lost their first foursomes match, 3&2, to Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara. They came back to beat the Woods/O'Meara team in fourball, 5&3, and never lost again. Their 2-1 record in 1997 helped Team Europe to an overall 14.5 to 13.5 Ryder Cup victory. In 2002 the duo performed even better, with three wins and one tie*, as Europe beat the USA 15.5 to 12.5.
4. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, 4-0-0 (1977, 1981): Nicklaus was the veteran and Watson a Ryder Cup rookie in 1977**. They dominated Tommy Horton and Mark James, 5&4, in a foursomes match as Team USA claimed the Cup 12.5 to 7.5, in the final Ryder Cup before the inclusion of players from continental Europe. 1981 was Jack Nicklaus' last appearance as a Ryder Cup player, and he posted a perfect 4-0 record as part of Team USA's 18.5 to 9.5 win. He and Watson teamed for three wins. In four career Ryder Cup matches, all victories, Nicklaus and Watson never played past the 16th hole.
3. Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, 6-2-0 (1999, 2004, 2006): The only losses for Clarke and Westwood came in 1999, when they played all four team matches with a 2-2 record. Team USA won the Cup that year, 14.5 to 13.5. In 2004 and 2006 they played one match each on Friday and Saturday, posting a perfect 4-0 record. Team Europe dominated both of those competitions, with identical 18.5 to 9.5 final scores. The Clarke/Westwood Ryder Cup record includes three wins and no losses against Tiger Woods, the world's dominant player at the time.
2. Arnold Palmer and Gardiner Dickinson, 5-0-0 (1967, 1971): Team USA's 23.5 to 8.5 triumph in 1967 is their largest margin of victory ever. Palmer and Dickinson teamed for two wins on the first day, claiming as victims Peter Alliss, Christy O'Connor Sr., Malcolm Gregson and Hugh Boyle. Helping Team USA to an 18.5-13.5 victory in 1971, the Americans added three more wins and three more victims; Peter Oosterhuis (three times), Peter Townsend (twice), and Bernard Gallacher.
1. Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, 11-2-2 (1987, 1989, 1991, 1993): While there can be debate about the first four selections on this list, there is no question about the single greatest Ryder Cup pairing of all time. Known as the "Spanish Armada", Ballesteros and Olazabal first appeared at Muirfield Village in 1987, posting a fine 3-1 record (losing to Hal Sutton and Larry Mize in their fourth match in two days). Unbeaten in 1989, they finished 3-0-1, with Tom Watson and Chip Beck earning a halve on Friday morning. In 1991 the Armada won their first three matches again, before a halve with Payne Stewart and Fred Couples on Saturday afternoon. In 1993 Tom Kite and Davis Love III were the designated opponent for Ballesteros and Olazabal three times, claiming a 2&1 victory Friday morning, before the Spaniards came back to win both the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning competitions.
While there may never be another team as dominant as Seve Ballesteros, only time will tell whether Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley play together in the Ryder Cup again, with a chance to become one of the top 5 Ryder Cup pairings of all time.
* Phil Mickelson, paired with David Toms, recorded one loss and one tie against Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer in 2002.
** In 2012, Phil Mickelson is the veteran, while Keegan Bradley is a Ryder Cup rookie.
Harold Andrews has played golf for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest of all time.
- Sports & Recreation
- Keegan Bradley
- Lee Westwood
- Jack Nicklaus
- Ryder Cup
- Luke Donald
- Colin Montgomerie
- Seve Ballesteros