We sent the always great Jason Sobel of ESPN a couple of questions and he was kind enough to answer them. You know, because I'm not in Valhalla. Stupid expensive tickets.
What was the atmosphere like after the morning rounds at Valhalla? Did the crowds almost seem shocked?
Sobel: The mood at the course went from hopeful to somber (remember, the Americans didn't lead a single match until 79 minutes into the morning session) to a light buzz to downright electric. Valhalla was rocking by the time the four-ball matches started and I expect it to be even more boisterous come Saturday and Sunday.
Did you see a change in Phil Mickelson while he was paired with Anthony Kim?
Sobel: Phil Mickelson certainly looked like he was having fun out there, but that's because he was playing well. It's sort of a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum that I've discussed with many players on recent teams. Do the U.S. guys never look like they're having fun because they're not playing well or do they not play well because they're not out there having fun? It's not an easy question to answer, but it was all too apparent that on Friday, Mickelson was both playing well AND having fun.
None of the Europeans looked comfortable all day long on the course. Do you think that has anything to do with them being the favorites?
Sobel: Not at all. Don't forget -- the Europeans were favored two years ago at The K Club and it didn't seem to adversely affect them very much at that one. For as much as we analyze and overanalyze these things, the Europeans are trailing not because of nerves or overconfidence or lack of team unity; they're down because they didn't make as many putts as the Americans. Simple as that.
What pairings do you see going back out tomorrow for the Americans?
Sobel: U.S. captain Paul Azinger is sending the exact same foursomes pairings back out on Saturday morning. I think the teams of Mickelson/Kim and Leonard/Mahan are each a lock to wind up playing four total matches together. If I were the captain, I may have sat Campbell in favor of Stricker and Perry in favor of Weekley, but I think he's got it just about right.
Can they keep this play up?
Sobel: There's no reason to think they can't. (OK, there are three reasons -- each of the last three Ryder Cups. But anyway ...) Putting is contagious and they certainly have the momentum right now. That said, these things can change in a heartbeat. Don't be surprised if this thing is much closer going into Sunday's singles matches.