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Internationals Enjoy Good Start but Yanks Take Opening-Day Lead in Presidents Cup
An hour-and-a-half delay caused by thunderstorms in the area seemed to re-charge the International team on the first day of the Presidents Cup. The biennial event is taking place at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
Behind in five of the six four-ball (best-ball) matches when the horn blew at 2:38 p.m. ET, forcing the players to the clubhouse, the visitors rallied after play resumed at 4:00.
By day's end, however, the Americans had forged a 3½ to 2½ lead heading into Friday's foursomes (alternate-shot) matches.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar - playing in the fifth match - got the first point of the day with a 5 and 4 win over Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman. Kuchar carded three winning birdies, while Woods had four. "We ham-and-egged it pretty good," Woods said at greenside.
"We had some fun out there," Kuchar added. "It's awfully fun with the No. 1 player in the world."
In Thursday's first match, Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker led most of the way. But a birdie on the par-5 15th brought the team of Jason Day and Graham DeLaet to all-square. The duo went 1-up with another birdie on the par-3 16th, but the Americans responded with a birdie of their own on the par-4 17th.
Day told reporters later that the weather delay helped his team. "Their guys were playing so well, I think it was a good time out," said the Aussie. "It definitely changed some of the games around."
Then Day birdied the par-4 closer at Muirfield to pull off the 1-up win and gain a point for the Internationals.
In Match 2, the USA's Bill Haas and Webb Simpson also set the pace early, holding a 1-up as late as the 15th hole. The team of Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama got to all-square with a birdie by Matsuyama on the 16th. The Americans took the lead right back on No. 17th with a birdie by Haas, but the 21-year-old Japanese player birdied the 18th to gain a crucial half-point.
The pattern of the Americans taking an early lead only to squander it at the end was repeated in the Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley and Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel match. Thanks to three point-making birdies, the Americans had a 1-up lead through eight holes.
The two South Africans then got rolling as they carded four winning birdies - two each - coming home to roll to a 2 and 1 win and a second full point for the Internationals.
In the sixth match pitting Americans Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner against two of the five South Africans on the International team, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, the USA pair had their way. The two former major winners carded six point-making birdies - with 2007 Masters winner having four - en route to a decisive 5 and 3 win.
The final match of the day involved a twosome with the oldest (Steve Stricker) and youngest (Jordan Spieth) players on the American squad going against Ernie Els - who's played in all 10 President Cups - and Brendon de Jonge.
The match was a birdie-fest, with the Americans making more en route to 2-up edge through 16. But Els birdied the 17th to reduce the margin to one. On the 18th Spieth hit his drive into a creek, while the other three all found the fairway and were each about 170 yards from the elevated green.
Only de Jonge found the green, however, his approach stopping 20 feet left-front of the hole. Els found the bunker in front as did Stricker, whose ball was plugged near the top lip. Els splashed out to 10 feet above the hole, while Stricker hit a magnificent shot to 4 feet below the cup.
After de Jonge missed his birdie try, Stricker - one of the game's best putters - calmly stroked in the par putt for the 1-up win to give the Americans the first-day lead.
With both the American and International teams watching the final match intently, Stricker called his bunker shot "nerve-wracking," adding that he "made a good up and down to finish it off."
For complete scoring details, visit http://www.presidentscup.com/scoring/2013.html.