Earlier in the week, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton said he told rookie Chris Riley that he was going to play the role of a pulling guard in football and run interference for the somewhat skittish Californian. On Friday morning, Riley had to take the ball across the proverbial goal line for his team, sinking a six-foot putt on the final hole to avoid a European sweep of the four best-ball matches and provide a precious half-point for the U.S. side.
Riley and Stewart Cink halved their match against Luke Donald and Paul McGinley, preventing the Europeans from posting the first 4-0 start since they did it at the 1989 Cup. He also justified Sutton's faith in putting him out in the morning round with some fine play, and of course that clutch final putt for par to halve the hole and the match.
"Hal told me afterward, 'Thanks for not letting us get skunked,' " said Riley, whose wife gave birth to their first child two weeks ago. "He just said that half point might be the difference come Sunday afternoon. I love Hal Sutton. He's been everything and more, a really great, great captain. He's given me little pep talks all week, and I just feel so lucky to be playing for him."
Riley also admitted he was extremely nervous on the first tee.
"Yeah, my knees were about to buckle if I stood over it any longer," he said. "So I just had to pull the trigger. That's what we play for out here. I was telling Stewart walking down the first hole that this is what a lot of people play for a lot of money in Las Vegas, getting this adrenaline going."
Tip of the Cap to Monty
Colin Montgomerie made one of the great chips in Ryder Cup history Friday, and Sutton later cited his great work at the eighth hole as a turning point in his and Padraig Harrington's alternate shot 4-and-2 victory over Davis Love III and Fred Funk.
Montgomerie was faced with a dangerous shot from the right fringe, about 45 feet from the cup, with the green sloping toward the pin. He aimed dead right away from the flag, landed his shot on the fringe and watched it trickle down to the hole, stopping inches from the cup for a conceded par.
Funk made a three-foot putt for par to halve the hole, but Sutton said Montgomerie's bold play clearly showed the difference between the approach of the two teams Friday.
"He'll go for an impossible shot," Sutton said. "And he almost makes it. I'm standing besides Chris Riley and I said, 'Chris, do you think he was concerned with the putt that he was fixing to leave Padraig Harrington, or making the chip?' He was doing one thing, trying to get that chip close, with no concern about the next shot. I saw more of the Americans trying to make sure they didn't leave anything of any distance. At some point, we have to get mad and say, 'I don't give a damn if we have to make a six or eight-footer coming back.' "
The Rope Is Frayed
Sutton on Thursday had described his team of Davis Love III and Chad Campbell in the morning matches as being "as strong as new rope." Of course, it also presented the perfect comeback from NBC commentator Johnny Miller when the two men were being drubbed by Darren Clarke and Angel Miguel Jimenez, 5 and 4.
"Right now it looks like they're choking on new rope," Miller said.
A Star-Studded Gallery
Some familiar faces in the crowd: former President George Bush, former British Prime Minister John Major, Michael Jordan and Detroit Red Wings star Steve Yzerman. Amy Mickelson and Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods's fiancee, walked all 36 holes together with their men, both dressed in the same outfits, and also attracted their share of photographers.