The hotter the pressure cooker, the better Keegan Bradley seems to thrive.
"When I get into those moments -- intense, serious moments -- I really love it," said last year's PGA Championship winner, who fought back from a late triple bogey to force a playoff he won.
Bradley also won last month's Bridgestone Invitational crown when a back-nine 31 put the heat on a faltering Jim Furyk. And though he lost a playoff at Riviera to Bill Haas, Bradley got in only after draining a slick, 13-foot putt on the 72nd hole.
"I really enjoy that Sunday back-nine feel," Bradley went on.
Now comes the biggest crucible of all -- the Ryder Cup, at which that Sunday back-nine feel will prevail from Friday's first hole at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club. It's where Bradley and a cadre of young guns will aim to reverse recent U.S. misery.
Four men on U.S. captain Davis Love III's roster are Ryder Cup rookies. Three more will tee it up in their second Cup. Three have won majors, another The Players Championship. All are 35 or younger, with three in their 20s.
While fans' attention naturally gravitates to mainstays Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, those seven -- Bradley, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner -- hold the key to U.S. fortunes.
And, quite likely, to American hopes in the next several Ryder Cups.
"I hope so," Simpson said. "It seems like these guys are around (the
Said Furyk: "I think you'll see some of these young guys carrying that torch for times to come."
It certainly would beat the scene from six of the last eight Ryder Cups, which have found the Europeans dancing on the balcony of the host club and spraying champagne on fans below.
Not one of the Americans with Ryder Cup experience has a winning match record. Kuchar (1-1-2), Steve Stricker (3-3-1) and Zach Johnson (3-3-1) are the only ones who break even.
No one can argue with their credentials. Watson is the reigning Masters champion; Simpson holds the U.S. Open crown and finished second on last year's PGA Tour money list. Kuchar captured The Players. Snedeker tied the British Open's 36-hole scoring record at Royal Lytham.
All seven have at least two PGA Tour victories in the last 25 months. Each is among the top 18 in the world rankings.
"They have won a bunch of tournaments," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "You have rookies in that team that have played extraordinary well."
On any team, the roster eventually has to turn over. Europe seamlessly did it in the last decade, integrating the likes of Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell from 2004-08.
Now it's the Americans' turn. And after years of wondering where the up-and-coming talent was hiding behind Woods and Mickelson, the bench is rather deep.