U.S. team take a 4-2 lead on day one of the Presidents Cup in Melbourne
American pair Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker suffer tournament record-equaling loss
Foursomes defeat is the worst match play loss of Woods' illustrious golf career
Friday will see the pairings changed for the opening fourballs matches
Tiger Woods suffered the heaviest match play defeat of his career on Thursday, but the U.S. golf team still emerged from day one of the Presidents Cup with a 4-2 lead over the Internationals.
Former world number one Woods and Steve Stricker were handed a tournament record-equaling 7&6 beating by Australia’s Adam Scott and South Korean K.J. Choi at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
It was the first time Woods had come up against ex-caddy Steve Williams, now working with Scott, since the New Zealander aimed a racial slur at his former employer earlier this month.
They shook hands before and after the match, and Woods later said: “There’s some great things that Steve and I did, and that’s how I look at it. I know he probably looks at it differently than I do, but hey, life goes forward.”
It was Woods and Stricker’s first loss as a pairing at the Presidents Cup, having won all four matches together in 2009, but the U.S. still finished with a lead thanks to victories in three of the day’s six matches.
The last time a match was completed so quickly – after only 12 holes – was in 1996 when South Africa’s David Frost beat American Kenny Perry in a singles clash.
“Unfortunately, they got off to a quick start and we just couldn’t keep up,” the 35-year-old Woods told the tournament’s official website. “We kept falling to the wrong side of these slopes. The golf course is so difficult, it’s hard to make up shots.”
They will have new partners for Friday’s fourballs, when Woods teams up with Dustin Johnson and Stricker joins Matt Kuchar.
“It seemed like we were just a little bit off,” Stricker said. “It seemed like I put him in the rough by a foot or so. If you’re in the rough here, trying to hit to some of these greens is pretty difficult.”
Unfortunately, they got off to a quick start and we just couldn’t keep up— Tiger Woods
Scott admitted the win was a pleasing one, but because it was on home soil rather than over Woods.
“A good win, because they were a tough team last time, took a lot of points off us,” said the 31-year-old. “So it was pleasing to get one up there.”
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson got the U.S. off to the perfect start, carding a 4&2 win over South Africa’s three-time major winner Ernie Els and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Geoff Ogilvy threw away a two-hole lead with just four to play to halve their clash with American pairing Bill Haas and Nick Watney in match two.
Australian duo Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day were two-up through 16, but lost the final two holes to halve with Johnson and Kuchar.
Match four saw four-time major champion Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk playing together for the first time since the 1999 Ryder Cup, and the Americans lost just one hole on their way to scoring a 4&3 win over Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby.
My guys felt like they let a few matches slip away, no question about it— Greg Norman
The U.S. team’s third victory was even more emphatic, as Hunter Mahan and David Toms overpowered South Korean duo Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim by 6&5.
U.S. captain Fred Couples, who guided the American team to success at the last Presidents Cup in 2009, was relieved to see his players grab the lead despite being in losing positions.
“It did not look like 4-2 about an hour and a half ago,” the 1992 Masters winner said after play had finished. “We’ll take that any day.”
International captain Greg Norman was left frustrated, but the Australian insisted his players were focused on the next three days of competition.
“My guys felt like they let a few matches slip away, no question about it,” reflected the two-time British Open winner. “But they all understand. It’s the game of golf.
“It does happen. Their heads are really held high. They are not worried about the next three days going forward.”