The US leads 4-2 after day one

Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were thrashed 7&6 as the United States stormed into a 4-2 lead at the Presidents Cup.

Former big-time Presidents Cup winners Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker were thrashed 7 and 6 by Adam Scott and KJ Choi in Thursday’s foursomes, but it didn’t stop the United States from storming into a 4-2 lead on the first day of the ninth edition of the Cup.

Nor did it appear to be the result of any strain that may have existed between Woods and his former caddy, Steve Williams, who is now carrying the bag of an in-form Scott.

Woods and Williams shook hands and smiled on the first tee in a move clearly meant to defuse any remaining tension from the global controversy sparked by Williams when he made a derogatory remark with racial overtones about Woods at a private Caddies award dinner in Shanghai two weeks ago

The former long-time World No 1, making his seventh Presidents Cup appearance in the US bid to win their fourth successive trophy, then fired his drive straight down the middle of the fairway on a fine day at famed Royal Melbourne where the Americans suffered their first and only Presidents Cup loss in 1998.

In Tiger’s case that was the last time that the US pair ever looked liked winning.

For Woods and Stricker, both suspect after injury lay-offs, it was all one way traffic as Scott and Choi stormed to a crushing victory that evened the match after the American’s opening pair of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson had whipped South Africa Cup veteran Ernie Els and Japan’s 20-year-old Ryo Ishikawa 4 and 6.

Choi made a 6-footer for birdie at the 12th hole to seal the lopsided victory over the US duo who went unbeaten in four matches at Harding Park two years ago, but who didn’t win a hole all day.

“We just played well,” Scott told the NBC’s Jimmy Roberts afterwards.

“KJ hit a lot of good shots. I hit a lot of good shots, and the other guys didn’t play their best.”

Woods agreed

“They got off to a quick start, and we just couldn’t keep up,” Woods said. “This golf course is so difficult, it’s hard to make up shots on it.”

Woods and Stricker only hit four fairways and six greens on Thursday.

“That’s the nature of this course,’ Stricker said. “It seems like we were always just a little bit off. We’ve got to do a better job of putting it in play.”

It was a little ironical that while former heroes Woods and Stricker were going down, Phil Mickelson was shrugging away the memories of losing all five of his games here in 1998 by teaming-up with Jim Furyk to beat Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby 4-and-3.

The win made Mickelson, who, along with Els, are the only men to have played in all nine Presidents Cups, the competition’s all-time points leader with 21.

The match turned in the Americans favor on the back nine. The two teams had matched birdies on the first two holes but the Americans lost the third hole with a bogey before squaring it when Mickelson rolled in a 16-footer at the seventh hole.

The International Team then went double bogey-bogey on the next two holes to give the Americans a lead they never lost..

Mickelson then made a 6-footer for birdie at the 11th and Furyk followed with another from 13 feet at the next to take the 4-up advantage they then coaxed home.

“We played together in ’99 at the Ryder Cup and we played well together,” Mickelson told NBC’s Dottie Petter. “And we felt like we wanted to partner again.”

In recent years, though, Mickelson and Furyk have often been separated so they could help some of the less experienced players find their feet, but this week, though, it wasn’t necessary.

“This year we felt like our young guys wanted to play together and would play well together so it gave Jim and I a chance to do what we’ve been wanting to do for years.”

Furyk said he was impressed with the way Mickelson putted on Thursday. The big left-hander has gone back to a conventional length putter and it was golden on Thursday.

The Mickelson-Furyk win was the start of a fight back by the patient and tenacious Americans who turned a 4-2 deficit in the early part of the day into a first round 4-2 lead in a type of golf that has been their strength over the years.

Mind you, it didn’t come easily for while the Korean Cup debutantes YE Yang and Kyung-Tae Kim were given a 6 and 5 foursomes lesson by Hunter Mahan and David Toms, the Internationals could, and perhaps should, have won the two matches squared between the Aaron Baddeley-Jason Day combination and their US opponents, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, and between Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel and America’s Bill Haas and Nick Watney.

In both of these matches, the two Internationals teams looked set to win coming through the turn, but seemed to allow the pressure to get to them on the closing stretch and opened the door to the delighted, strong-finishing Americans.

Baddeley in particular will want to forget his final two holes at the 17th and 18th where an awry drive and a missed five foot putt cost the Internationals the last two holes and saw Johnson and Kuchar grab an unexpected, last gasp half.

FIRST DAY SCOREBOARDUSA lead the Internationals 4-2