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Bradley's big games ensure encore performance

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MEDINAH, Illinois (AP) -Keegan Bradley's only regret was there weren't more holes to play.

Not to worry. After the day he and the rest of the U.S. rookies had, no way captain Davis Love III is pulling them off the course.

Bradley and good buddy Phil Mickelson knocked off Europe's top two teams, fellow rookies Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner each delivered a point, and the Americans set themselves up well in their quest to win the Ryder Cup for just the third time since 1995 with a 5-3 lead.

"All the rookies ... played very, very well," Love said. "I was really impressed. We played as a team today, and I think that's all we wanted. We got off to a great start."

There are two more sessions of team matches Saturday, and Love is sticking with his young guns. Simpson and Bubba Watson, who thrashed Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson 5-and-4, will lead off the morning foursomes against Justin Rose and Ian Poulter. Bradley and Mickelson will face Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, and Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson will play Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker will get another crack at Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell after pushing them so hard in Friday's first match Europe's top team had nothing left in the afternoon.

The most noticeable absence from the U.S. lineup? Tiger Woods, who was benched after getting shut out on the opening day for the fourth time. After winning their first six outings together, Woods and Steve Stricker have now lost four straight in match play.

"We just don't want guys to be worn out," Love said. "We need Tiger and Steve in the afternoon. We need Tiger and Steve on Sunday."

Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups, and it looked as if the Americans might be in for another disappointing weekend Friday morning. They were actually trailing in all of the foursome matches at one point, and Medinah was as silent as a shrine. But Bradley holed a 25-foot putt to beat Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald 4-and-3, their first loss ever in foursomes, and the splash of red on the scoreboard woke everyone up.

Dufner and Zach Johnson followed with a 3-and-2 win over Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, and Snedeker and Furyk made McIlroy and McDowell grind out their 1-up win.

That turned out just to be the warm up. Simpson and Bubba Watson, who sat out the morning matches, bulldozed Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson, going 6 up after the eighth hole, and the U.S. rout was on. Matt Kuchar ran off four straight birdies as he and Dustin Johnson built an early lead against Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer.

"Every time we got to the green, we had 30 seconds to spare and look up and see the other guys playing well," Simpson said. "It made us want to keep playing well and keep making birdies and see how soon we could get the `W."'

But the best show came from Bradley and Mickelson.

Mickelson has made Bradley his pet project since the 26-year-old joined the PGA Tour last year, roping him into money matches during practice rounds to prepare him for days just such as this. That Bradley was a gamer was clear last season, when he won the first major he played, the PGA Championship.

This performance was, if possible, even better.

With McDowell and McIlroy looking flat from their morning match, Bradley and Mickelson took it to them right away and were 3 up after three holes. Bradley did most of the work, making one clutch putt after another and playing with such unbridled energy he practically crackled. No one, from the crowd to Mickelson, was immune.

"I love playing with Keegan," Mickelson said. "I would say to him a couple of times, I need a little pep talk, and he would give me something, get me boosted right up, and I would end up hitting a good shot."

Like the one to close out McIlroy and McDowell 2-and-1.

Mickelson stuffed a 7-iron to 2 feet - "the greatest shot I've ever seen," Bradley said - and the walk to the green looked like a Mardi Gras parade as they screamed, hugged, clapped and high-fived.

"It was like a Patriots game out there," Bradley, a New England native, said with a grin. "It was just a moment that I'll obviously never forget the rest of my life."

Woods and Stricker would probably like to forget their day.

They were downright dismal in foursomes, spraying tee shots into the gallery and the water and showing no touch whatsoever on the greens. Woods was somewhat improved in the afternoon, making 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. But he and Stricker were no match for Europe's lone rookie, Nicolas Colsaerts, who single-handedly kept his team from getting swept in fourballs with eight birdies and an eagle - a 10-under 62 if he was keeping score on his own. The "Belgian Bomber" may be known for his long drives, but he can putt, too, answering Woods with a 25-footer on 17 that ensured the Americans could do no better than a halve.

The Europeans got the full point when Woods' 12-footer for birdie on 18 caught the lip.

"I knew how vital it was. I wasn't sure if Nicolas did," said Lee Westwood, who provided little more than moral support and entertainment for Colsaerts. "He said he was looking at the scoreboards, but there's a massive difference between getting a halve and getting a win. ... We need a big day tomorrow. But we're still within touching distance there if we do have a good day."

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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