It was a suitably huge tartan roar to greet the local man. Stephen Gallacher, from just down the road at Bathgate, could not have asked for more when he walked on to the first tee accompanied by Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman, Ian Poulter.
“The first tee was magic,” Gallacher said. “It was a special reception, something that I will definitely remember the rest of my life.”
Thereafter the usual Poulter magic was sadly absent. The “Ryder Cup wizard”, as he was described by one of his opponents, missed a short putt at the first to lose the hole to a par, contravening the first law of fourball golf, then at the 14th left his effort to continue the match short. It meant a thumping 5&4 defeat by the American rookie pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
This was hardly what was expected from the man who inspired the Miracle at Medinah two years ago. The home pairing did not win a hole and made only one birdie, by Gallacher for a half at the second hole.
While the Scot understandably took a few holes to get his rhythm, Poulter found the lake at the ninth and it was here that the visitors – with a combined age of 45 the youngest-ever pairing put out by America – claimed the first of three birdies in a row.
Tom Watson, the US captain, had told them he was “dropping them in the ocean without a life-preserver”. They did not need one. They were five under par for 14 holes, with Reed holing an array of putts, helped by Spieth so often being in a good position right alongside.
“They ham-and-egged it very well and it’s hard to beat when you are rolling in putts as they did,” said Poulter.
For much of the morning the youngsters were the only American pair putting red on the scoreboard, but their runaway win was the foundation of a fightback that ultimately put the visitors ahead at lunchtime. “It was definitely a psychological blow and it was very quiet out there compared to what Patrick and I expected,” said Spieth.
He also revealed quite how much the Americans were looking to bring Poulter back down to earth. “We got a pairing we liked,” Spieth said of his partnership with Reed. “No battle scars. And I think everybody on the team wants Poulter and we were able to have him first.
“There were a few guys who told us they were very jealous that we had him today. We were excited about that, whatever it is – the past history, the fact that he’s known as a kind of Ryder Cup wizard – but I don’t think he’s under anyone’s skin. He’s just made a lot of putts in the Ryder Cup and he didn’t have his best stuff today.”
Poulter’s fourth defeat in the event, from 16 matches, came, like his first three, in an initial outing. He lost his very first match 4&3 alongside Darren Clarke, a memory he consoled Gallacher with afterwards. “We got our butts kicked the first time I ever played and we’ve had that today,” he said. “Things can change very quickly but we have to keep our heads up.
“My record has taken a dent but I can shrug that off. This is a team game and they have to beat 12 of us.”
Poulter, who won four times out of four at Medinah, said he knew he would rest yesterday afternoon and was not expecting to play five times.
More perplexing was Watson’s resting of Spieth and Reed when they were on such a high and expecting to be sent out again. “It would have been great to go back out and take the momentum of what we’d just done,” Reed said. “But Captain Watson picks pairings for a reason. I was over it as soon as he told us.”Reuse content