GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — Webb Simpson was identified on the first tee as Bubba Watson. He hit his shot about as long as Tom Watson.
As Simpson stepped up to get the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles underway, veteran announcer Ivor Robson got caught up in the raucous atmosphere around the first tee.
“On the tee,” Robson said in his distinctive voice, “Bubba Watson.”
Simpson couldn’t help but raise a smile.
“It was the first shot of the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. “He was nervous, too.”
Simpson wasn’t smiling seconds later when his tee shot flew high into the air, traveling only 190 yards and barely reaching the fairway. It set the tone for his round.
Simpson and Watson didn’t make a birdie between them in a 5-and-4 loss to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
The American pair was stood down for the afternoon foursomes.
BUBBA’S GAMES: Bubba Watson cupped one ear, than the other, toward the European fans that were riling him, waved his right hand in the air, then took his first tee shot while cheers were still ringing out.
It’s always a boisterous start to play at the Ryder Cup nowadays but Watson said the noise wasn’t as loud as at Celtic Manor in 2010.
“Even after we lost, when they won, wasn’t much chatter out there,” Watson said. “Rory (McIlroy)’s group, even when they took the lead with a few holes left, it wasn’t as loud as you can hear roars at some of the other golf tournaments in the U.S.
“So yeah, just didn’t seem as loud. I don’t know what that is.”
Watson offered an explanation.
“Maybe it’s too windy so the sound travelled different.”
STRICKER THE STAT MAN: Assistant captain Steve Stricker pitched in with some statistics to persuade U.S. captain Tom Watson to change some of his pairings. The plan was to have Jordan Spieth play with Matt Kuchar, and Patrick Reed to go with Jim Furyk.
But then Stricker did some research.
Spieth said Stricker found in their PGA Tour statistics that both ranked well in total birdies last season, and both were pedestrian in driving accuracy.
“That speaks perfectly to best ball,” Spieth said.
Watson told them Wednesday about his new plan to put them together, and it worked beautifully. They made six birdies in a 5-and-4 win over Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher, handing Poulter is worst loss ever in the Ryder Cup.
DUBUISSON’S DOUBLE: Victor Dubuisson played the PGA Centenary course in the morning and the afternoon on Friday, even though he only showed up once in the results.
Before the French rookie linked up with Graeme McDowell to beat Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley 3 and 2 in the foursomes, the European pair played a few holes in the morning under the guidance of vice captain Des Smyth.
“I had a winning dynamic this morning with Victor,” European captain Paul McGinley said. “That dynamic, all of those dynamics before he hit his first shot, were very important psychologically for Victor to step on the first tee. And I want to do that again.”
Dubuisson, therefore, will sit out Saturday’s morning fourballs to stay fresh for the afternoon, when he will likely play with McDowell again.
“What can I say, I get great partners at Ryder Cups,” McDowell said. “I’ve played with Rory McIlroy the last couple of Ryder Cups and I get a chance to play today with a young rookie who I firmly believe is Europe’s next superstar and a lot of fun to be alongside of him.”
BEE STING: Justin Rose played 27 holes with a swollen right thumb after he was stung by a bee midway through the morning fourballs.
“It was a well-deserved sting because I hit a terrible shot into the water hazard on the ninth and I was sort of searching for my golf ball,” Rose said. “The next thing … I had the barb of the insect in me.
“Lucky it wasn’t the left because that one takes a lot of pressure.”
It didn’t affect him. Rose won both his matches with Henrik Stenson.
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