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Woods benched after US goes up 5-3 in Ryder Cup

– Keegan Bradley made Friday at the Ryder Cup feel like the best day of his life, and it wasn’t too shabby for the rest of the Americans.

Bradley led a strong performance by rookies on both teams at Medinah by teaming with Phil Mickelson for two wins against Europe’s best two partnerships. Even with Tiger Woods getting shut out on opening day for the fourth time, the United States took a big step toward regaining the cup with a 5-3 lead.

Next up for Woods is a session on the sideline.

Sticking to his plan of not wanting his players worn out by the end of the week, U.S. captain Davis Love III decided to bench Woods for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, ending his streak of playing 31 consecutive matches.

As for Bradley? His energy is boundless.

Mickelson took Bradley under his wing last year for a series of money games at the majors to prepare the 26-year-old for a stage like this. And did he ever deliver. He was into every shot, cocking his head to the side to read putts, charging up the gallery and Mickelson in a command performance.

“This is literally what I’ve dreamt about since I was a little kid,” Bradley said. “I got to do it next to my idol all day.”

Bradley holed a 25-foot birdie putt in morning foursomes to hand Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia their first loss in Ryder Cup foursomes. Next up were Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and the Americans won the first three holes. Mickelson wasn’t there only for support. Right when Europe was trying to rally, Mickelson closed it with a 7-iron to 2 feet that was conceded for birdie.

“Phil is a smart guy,” Love said. “He knows how to pick partners.”

It was a day Bradley didn’t want to end.

“Oh, baby, I wish we could go 36 more,” Bradley said.

He wasn’t the only rookie to shine on a mild day in the Chicago suburbs. Nicolas Colsaerts, the 29-year-old from Belgium, helped Europe avoid getting shut out in afternoon fourballs by taking down Woods and Steve Stricker.

Colsaerts made eight birdies and an eagle – a 10-under 62 if he was keeping score on his own. He teamed with Lee Westwood, who was just along for the ride for a 1-up win that ended 11 hours of cheers and plenty of American red on the leader board.

“I don’t think there has ever been a better debut than that,” Westwood said.

Woods and Stricker also lost to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in morning foursomes, making this the fourth time in the seven Ryder Cups that Woods has played that he lost both matches on the opening day.

There was nothing Woods could do against Colsaerts, the biggest hitter in Europe who isn’t too bad with the putter, either.

“Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I’ve ever seen,” Woods said, high praise coming from a 14-time major champion.

Woods turned in a mixed performance. He missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 15th to fall 2 down, and then came back with a bending, 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th and a shot into 4 feet on the 17th that looked as if it might square the match. Instead, Colsaerts rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt for a halve. Woods had a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th to halve the match, only it caught the left lip.

“We ran into a guy who made everything today,” Woods said. “I don’t know what he shot. He was like 7 under through 10. I quit counting after that.”

Love said he told Woods and Stricker they would be sitting out the foursomes matches this morning, “and I can guarantee you, neither one of them are very happy about it. Not because they are sitting out; because they have to wait till tomorrow afternoon to come back.”

Both captains made sure all 12 of their players got into the game early, though European captain Jose Maria Olazabal set himself up for second-guessing when he sat out Donald, Garcia and Poulter for the afternoon matches. They have a combined 31-13-5 record in the Ryder Cup.

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