Cubs

U.S. takes early advantage after Day 1 at Ryder Cup

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U.S. takes early advantage after Day 1 at Ryder Cup

MEDINAH -- Bubba Watson stood on the first tee waving his arms, urging Ryder Cup fans to make some noise.

No need. The Americans gave them more than enough reasons to cheer.

After salvaging a tie in foursomes after trailing in all four matches Friday morning, the Americans finished the first day with a 5-3 lead. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson swept their matches, and Watson and Webb Simpson handily beat Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson to give the United States a win. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar then beat Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer 3-and-2.

"Oh, baby," Bradley said, "I wish I could go 36 more."

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were turning things around after struggling the entire day -- they lost 2-and-1 to Ian Poulter and Rose in foursomes -- but couldn't close it out, falling to Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts.

Bradley and Mickelson are frequent practice round partners, and both said repeatedly this week how much they wanted to play together. After the day they had, no way captain Davis Love III will split them up.

Bradley made one clutch putt after another, none bigger than the 25-footer uphill that clinched their 4-and-3 upset over Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia in foursomes. It was the first time the Europeans had lost in foursomes; they had been 4-0 together, and Garcia had a career record of 8-0-1. Bradley made another six birdies in the afternoon as the Americans raced out to a 4-up lead on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe's top team, through eight holes.

The Europeans, McDowell in particular, didn't have the same spark in the afternoon as they did in the morning, when they held off Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker for a 1-up win. McIlroy cut the U.S. lead to 2-up with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15, and stuck his tee shot on the par-3 17th. But Mickelson did him one better, putting his 7-iron to 2 feet. He raised his club in the air, and Bradley walked onto the green screaming and waving his arms at the crowd.

"We were trying to claw our way back, and we played some good stuff on the way in," McIlroy said. "But Keegan and Phil were just too strong this afternoon."

So were Watson and Simpson. The duo, who won the year's first two majors, was raring to go after sitting out the morning session. Watson and his caddie waved their arms at the fans on the first tee, urging them to take it up another notch. After splitting the fairway with his drive, Watson up his driver as if to say, "Bring it."

Did they ever.

Watson and Simpson birdied seven of their first eight holes, and their lone par -- on No. 2 -- was still good enough to win the hole. When Watson made putts from inside 8 feet for birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8, the question wasn't if they'd win, but whether they'd do it in record fashion. The record win in an 18-hole team match is 7-and-6, accomplished twice.

But Watson and Simpson halved the next two holes, and Lawrie made a 5-foot birdie on 11 to give the Europeans their first hole in the match. That just delayed the inevitable, however. On the green in two on the par-5 14th, Watson needed only to two-putt from 45 feet to end the match. He got close enough on the first try, and the Europeans conceded the putt.

"I'm just playing with a buddy that can keep me cool, and I know he's going to play really good," Watson said. "I just needed to be in there when he was what we call struggling -- making pars. So it was fun."

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo is ready to be the leading man 

When discussing his unconventional lineup choices, Joe Maddon had this to say, "It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating.....So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."

And it is hard to blame Maddon for letting his experiment ride out longer.

Via our Chris Kamka, Rizzo has hit in the leadoff spot seven times this season. In those seven plate appearances he has a single, double, triple (July 21), home run, walk, hit by pitch and a groundout. Rizzo’s numbers as a leadoff hitter are staggering:

And it appears the Cubs agree.

After their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, Ben Zobrist joked that Rizzo is the “self proclaimed greatest leadoff hitter...”. And while on paper, having Zobrist bat fourth in the order and Rizzo lead off seems contradictory, the move has definitely energized the offense. Immediately following all the lineup shuffling, the Cubs reeled off four straight wins before the Cardinals 18-run, 18-hit explosion, but even in that game Rizzo did draw a base by HBP.

And sure enough, in Saturday’s game, there was Rizzo, dominating to the tune of three walks and a triple. There is no telling if Maddon will continue to keep him in the leadoff spot. The move was originally made to help Rizzo get his groove back, which if Saturday’s win was any indication, he has.

But with Jason Heyward having a great offensive season, Jesse Chavez looking good in his Cubs debut (two clean innings with one strikeout) and Baez continuing his MVP-like play, Cubs fans should be as optimistic as one certain fan at Wrigley Field.

Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

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Training Camp Daily: Peter King Talks Bears Upside

Training camp Daily: Peter King joins the Under Center Podcast on Day 2 of practice in Bourbonnais. King and John "Moon" Mullin talk Trubisky year 2, Trubisky comparison, Bears upside this season and Urlacher's Hall of Fame Induction.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded link below: