U.S. takes early advantage after Day 1 at Ryder Cup

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U.S. takes early advantage after Day 1 at Ryder Cup

MEDINAH -- Bubba Watson stood on the first tee waving his arms, urging Ryder Cup fans to make some noise.

No need. The Americans gave them more than enough reasons to cheer.

After salvaging a tie in foursomes after trailing in all four matches Friday morning, the Americans finished the first day with a 5-3 lead. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson swept their matches, and Watson and Webb Simpson handily beat Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson to give the United States a win. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar then beat Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer 3-and-2.

"Oh, baby," Bradley said, "I wish I could go 36 more."

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were turning things around after struggling the entire day -- they lost 2-and-1 to Ian Poulter and Rose in foursomes -- but couldn't close it out, falling to Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts.

Bradley and Mickelson are frequent practice round partners, and both said repeatedly this week how much they wanted to play together. After the day they had, no way captain Davis Love III will split them up.

Bradley made one clutch putt after another, none bigger than the 25-footer uphill that clinched their 4-and-3 upset over Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia in foursomes. It was the first time the Europeans had lost in foursomes; they had been 4-0 together, and Garcia had a career record of 8-0-1. Bradley made another six birdies in the afternoon as the Americans raced out to a 4-up lead on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe's top team, through eight holes.

The Europeans, McDowell in particular, didn't have the same spark in the afternoon as they did in the morning, when they held off Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker for a 1-up win. McIlroy cut the U.S. lead to 2-up with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15, and stuck his tee shot on the par-3 17th. But Mickelson did him one better, putting his 7-iron to 2 feet. He raised his club in the air, and Bradley walked onto the green screaming and waving his arms at the crowd.

"We were trying to claw our way back, and we played some good stuff on the way in," McIlroy said. "But Keegan and Phil were just too strong this afternoon."

So were Watson and Simpson. The duo, who won the year's first two majors, was raring to go after sitting out the morning session. Watson and his caddie waved their arms at the fans on the first tee, urging them to take it up another notch. After splitting the fairway with his drive, Watson up his driver as if to say, "Bring it."

Did they ever.

Watson and Simpson birdied seven of their first eight holes, and their lone par -- on No. 2 -- was still good enough to win the hole. When Watson made putts from inside 8 feet for birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8, the question wasn't if they'd win, but whether they'd do it in record fashion. The record win in an 18-hole team match is 7-and-6, accomplished twice.

But Watson and Simpson halved the next two holes, and Lawrie made a 5-foot birdie on 11 to give the Europeans their first hole in the match. That just delayed the inevitable, however. On the green in two on the par-5 14th, Watson needed only to two-putt from 45 feet to end the match. He got close enough on the first try, and the Europeans conceded the putt.

"I'm just playing with a buddy that can keep me cool, and I know he's going to play really good," Watson said. "I just needed to be in there when he was what we call struggling -- making pars. So it was fun."

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

Cubs slug their way to impressive homestand

For the third straight year, the Cubs' season could hinge on an important series with the San Francisco Giants.

In August of 2015, the Cubs swept the Giants in a four-game set at Wrigley Field and they built off that momentum to win 97 games and make it all the way to the National League Championship Series.

Last fall, the Cubs rallied to beat the Giants in an epic comeback in Game 4 of the NLDS, essentially winning the World Series in that game, by Joe Maddon's opinion.

The 2017 Cubs have spent all year hovering around .500 before winning three of four against the Giants this week at Wrigley, looking more and more like the defending champs.

Thursday's 5-1 win over the Giants was the icing on top of an impressive 7-2 homestand that also featured a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds and a split in a rain-shortened series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs are now 14-11 at home and 25-21 overall, having caught up to the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. 

They also flashed plenty of defense throughout the homestand, including Javy Baez's ridiculous play in the eighth inning of the series finale against the Giants:

Eddie Butler turned in another solid start, allowing just a run in five innings. Mike Montgomery faced one above the minimum in four innings of relief, inducing six outs on ground balls.

Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist delivered the offense with a solo homer each off former Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo added insurance by both scoring on a wild pitch (and subsequent error) in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Heyward's blast was his fifth of the season. He didn't earn his fifth homer of 2016 until July 29.

On the nine-game homestand, the Cubs found their offense, scoring 59 runs — good for 6.56 runs per game.

They also smashed 20 home runs, which is nearly a third of their season total (62). On the homestand, 45.7 percent of the Cubs' runs came via the longball.

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Cubs enjoy 'Anchorman' road trip after big home stand: '60 percent of the time, it works every time'

Win or lose, the Cubs were always going to leave Wrigley Field on a good note Thursday evening.

Joe Maddon made sure of that.

The Cubs are set to leave "The Friendly Confines" dressed in "Anchorman" attire for Maddon's themed road trip that will include Kyle Schwarber dressed as fictional sportscaster Champ Kind, right down to the gallon-size hat.

"Champ's my guy," Schwarber said.

Maddon thought Schwarber was the perfect fit for Champ Kind.

"Of course he should be," Maddon said. "Isn't that a [John] Lackey kinda look, also?

"I just love that they're into it. It would've been perfect going to San Diego first, but I'll take it."

The Cubs are shipping out to Los Angeles for a weekend series beginning Friday before heading to San Diego - the site of Ron Burgandy's affection - from there.

The Cubs apparently even have some "Sex Panther" on board, the cologne that Paul Rudd's character used that smelled...shall we say...awful.

"Sex Panther's on board," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I'm hearing a lot of good things about Sex Panther. 'Sixty percent of the time, [it works every time].' I wanna know who wrote that. That's brilliant.

"Of course, a win always makes it better, but even after a loss, it's a good way to just let 'er go. But I think everybody's embraced the 'Anchorman' very well."

Of course, the Cubs did win, beating the San Francisco Giants 5-1 to close out a 7-2 home stand.