The Americans up by one
Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker shone as the US finished with a narrow one-point lead after the first day of the Presidents Cup.
Missed short putts by Justin Leonard on the last two holes has restricted the United States to a narrow one-point lead over the International team heading into the second day of the Presidents Cup at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Fred Couples’ America side lead Greg Norman’s Internationals by 3½ points to 2½ after the opening foursomes matches in the four-day Ryder Cup style event after Leonard and Jim Furyk halved the sixth and final match of the day with Retief Goosen and YE Yang.
The Americans had started slowly in a competition they had not lost since their only defeat in seven matches in 1998.
There has also been a tie, in 2003, but the way the Americans came back strongly in the six alternate shot foursomes matches yesterday suggested they would not be conceding the trophy lightly come Sunday.
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim got the home team off to a winning start by coming from behind to beat Canada’s Mike Weir and South African Tim Clark two up, while Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, the world numbers one and three, dominated their match with Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
Woods and Stricker missed just two fairways and two greens between them on the way to a crushing six and four victory over world number 10 Ogilvy, the only top-10 ranked player in the International team, and teenage rookie Ishikawa to give the USA an early 2-0 lead.
“I think this is our fifth straight tournament playing together,” Woods said of his playing partner. “So we’ve definitely got used to one another and Stricks is just a great dude to play with.
“We went out there and we didn’t give these guys a chance to get in to the match and we put the hammer on pretty good.”
Stricker added: “We played well together and he got it on there and I was able to make some putts and vice versa. It was a lot of fun.”
All was not lost on the opening day for the Internationals, who had been up early in four of the six matches before the Americans rallied.
Ernie Els and captain’s pick Adam Scott got Norman’s side on the scoreboard as they continued their successful partnership with a two and one win over Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair, giving them their third win in four Presidents Cup matches together.
Scott’s performance was always going to come in for particular scrutiny, having been picked by Norman despite a disappointing year on the PGA Tour, and the Australian golfer was a happy man after the win.
“It’s great for me but more importantly we needed a point for the team. Things were looking good early on, but some matches turned around so we really needed this one.”
Els praised Scott for keeping their partnership in the match.
“I missed some birdie putts but he hit the ball so good today,” Els said. “If I had holed some of those this could have been over three or four holes earlier.
“We had to make some par-saving putts but Adam played the last two holes brilliantly. I have a great partner and obviously a great pick.”
Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby were never behind in their match with American major winners this year, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, but their contest went to the last hole before they were able to secure victory, Australia’s Allenby sinking the winning putt to level the matches at 2-2.
The match between Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry and the South American pair of Camilo Villegas and Angel Cabrera also reached the 18th hole – but not the green. The Colombian and the Argentine were one down playing the last when Villegas sent a fairway wood approach from the rough over the back of the green that resulted in the Internationals conceding the hole and giving the American pair a two-up win as the home side edged 3-2 ahead.
That left Furyk and Leonard against South Africa’s Goosen and Korea’s newly-crowned US PGA champion Yang.
The Americans had gone three down after just five holes, but rallied to get to all square after eight and never trailed again.
Leonard had a chance to seal victory on the 17th green, but missed a short putt, allowing Goosen to hole out and extend the contest to the last.
Here Goosen’s approach found the rough short of the green as Leonard rifled his onto the green.
Furyk’s long putt to win the match came up short and Goosen sunk his short putt to leave Leonard again with a short putt for victory. His effort lipped out and the match was halved, leaving the overall picture delicately balanced.
ALL THE FIRST DAY SCORES
(USA names first):
Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson bt Tim Clark and Mike Weir 3 & 2
Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods bt Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy 6 & 4
Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair lost to Adam Scott and Ernie Els 2 & 1
Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink lost to Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby 1 down
Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry bt Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas 2 up
Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard halved with Retief Goosen and Y E Yang
USA 3½ International Team 2 ½
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