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Friday, September 28, 2012
Snedeker will learn from early defeat

By Farrell Evans
ESPN.com

MEDINAH, Ill. -- On Friday morning in the first session of the 39th Ryder Cup, Brandt Snedeker went from a rookie in the biennial matches to a steely veteran in a few hours.

In a match that went to the 18th hole at the Medinah Country Club, the 32-year-old freshly minted FedEx Cup champion went through every possible emotion that a player could have in a match. He was down, then up and then back down again.

Brandt Snedeker
In the closest match of the opening session at the 39th Ryder Cup, U.S. rookie Brandt Snedeker lost his alternate-shot match with Jim Furyk, 1-up, against Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Snedeker rode the momentum like someone who was used to this stage. But after 11 holes, Davis Love III's decision to send out Snedeker and Jim Furyk in the first match of the Friday morning foursomes looked like his first mistake as the captain of the U.S. team.

Snedeker and Furyk were outplayed by Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who had six birdies in their first 10 holes, an amazing feat in the alternate-shot format.

The Europeans were 3 up with six holes to play when the Americans won three of the next four holes. Furyk evened the match with a 210-yard hybrid to 4 feet at the par-4, 482-yard 16th hole.

After both teams made pars on a treacherous, downhill par-3 17th hole, the match came down to the 18th hole.

Snedeker was one of Love's four captain's picks. Love had picked the former U.S. Amateur Public Links championship because he was a laid-back, easygoing fellow with a magical putting stroke. But at the slight dogleg right par-4 18th, he needed to hit a good drive.

For most of the day, Snedeker had driven the ball solidly, although he was routinely 40 to 50 yards behind McIlroy's bombs. But at the 18th, Snedeker hit his worst drive of the morning. The ball flew 40 yards right of the fairway -- leaving Furyk with only a pitch-out to the fairway.

"Just an awful swing at the wrong time," Snedeker said. "Just the way it works out sometimes. Just bad timing; I don't know what else to say. I was trying to give Jim a chance to do what he'd been doing all day, and I didn't do a good job of it there."

The two Northern Irishmen scrambled for their par, while the Americans could salvage only a bogey. It was a bitter end to what had been an inspiring combat by the Americans.

"It was a hellluva match," Snedeker said. "It was unfortunate the way it ended. Jim was unbelievable. ... But I'm encouraged. I hit a bunch of great putts that didn't go in."

Early on, Furyk -- a veteran of seven Ryder Cup matches -- played like the young upstart in the matches. The 41-year-old, 16-time PGA Tour winner didn't really settle into the match until they began to make their comeback on the last six holes.

"I think we could have done so much more in the first 10 or 11 holes to help ourselves out," Furyk said. "But we played some beautiful holes from about 12 in. It's kind of bitter to end up losing that last hole."

Snedeker handled his emotions well for most of the day.

"My [nerves] were fine 'til the last hole," he said. "I hadn't hit a shot that bad since I can remember. It's Ryder Cup pressure. It's what it boils down to. I'll learn from that and be better the rest of the week."

Snedeker, who didn't play in the afternoon four-balls, can take many positives from this early defeat. He's now been a part of some adversity and knows what it feels like to battle back in front of a big crowd with the pressure to win. During the comeback, he didn't wilt under the pressure as the crowd urged him and Furyk on to make a run.

"It sucks," Snedeker said. "It sucks really bad. I'm not happy with myself right now, but that's part of golf."

Snedeker feels down now, but as long as he doesn't let this setback ruin the good mojo he brought into the week, he should be a big asset to the team this weekend.

One thing is for sure, though: After Friday morning, Snedeker is no longer a Ryder Cup rookie.