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."

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

Bears reportedly won't franchise tag Alshon Jeffery, so what's next?

NFL.com's Insider Ian Rapoport dropped a news bomb in the middle of the night, Tweeting in the wee hours of Monday morning that the Bears will not sign receiver Alshon Jeffery to a franchise tag:

Jeffery played under the franchise tag in 2016, when he earned roughly $14.6 million. 

The Bears could still re-sign Jeffery to a longer deal in free agency, but the market on the 27-year-old receiver may climb out of their desired range.

The $17 million franchise tag was an awful lot of salary cap to spend on a guy who has missed 11 games over the last two seasons to injury and a PED suspension that stretched to four games in 2016.

When he was on the field last year, Jeffery turned in his worst stat line since his rookie season, catching only 52 balls for 821 yards and 2 TDs.

Still, his departure would leave a gaping hole in the Bears receiving corps as Cameron Meredith and Kevin White would emerge as the leaders of the group.

Meredith went undrafted out of Illinois State, but he has impressed in his two pro seasons, leading the Bears in receptions (66), targets (96), yards (888) and TDs (4) in 2016.

White was the Bears' first-round pick in 2015 (7th overall) but has played in just four games due to leg issues and has only 19 catches for 187 yards and 0 TDs under his belt.

David Kaplan believes if Jeffery does depart Chicago, it sends a bigger message about the state of the Bears:

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games