The United States has grabbed a two-point lead after the opening day of the Presidents Cup – a result International Captain Nick Price could smile about.
He could afford a smile simply because he knows it could have been worse.
The Americans won three of five foursomes matches, and halved another, to earn a 3.5 to 1.5 lead at Liberty National Golf Club. Phil Mickelson could have made Price’s dinner taste off had he not missed a six-foot putt at the final hole as he and playing partner Kevin Kisner halved Aussie duo Marc Leishman and Jason Day.
"We're one point better off then we were two years (ago)," Price said. "It was a brutal day to play golf. We got behind the eight-ball early with a few of our teams being two-down, three-down at the turn.
"But the guys rallied back great. Even though we're two points behind, it was one of our strongest starts in foursomes on Thursday.
"So the team is not discouraged at all. We have a resilient team. They are raring to go tomorrow."
Despite his positive spin on the result, it is the sixth consecutive time the International team has lost the opening session at the Presidents Cup.
The Americans got off to a flying start with Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler giving Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel a towelling, 6&4. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed banked another win for the US a short time later in defeating South Korean Si-woo Kim and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo 5&4.
The American juggernaut rolled on with Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson grabbing a win, 1 up, against Venezuala’s Jhonattan Vegas and Queensland’s Adam Scott. It was a disappointing result for the Internationals as Vegas and Scott had missed opportunities on the back nine to move into the lead. In the end, a birdie for Kuchar-Johnson on the par-3 16th proved the difference,
The loss alongside Vegas leaves Scott with the unenviable record of nine foursomes defeats, which is more than any player in Presidents Cup history.
The Internationals notched up their first point through the South African pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who defeated Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger 3 & 1. The Oosthuizen and Grace pairing continue to be a thorn in the side of the Americans. In 2015, they were undefeated in four matches together and will be together again for the Friday fourball.
In the fifth and final match of day one, Day and Leishman bounced back from three holes down through eight holes to lead 1up with two holes to play.
But the Australians let Mickelson and Kisner back into the match with a bogey at the penultimate hole, which had the match all square with the last to play. Incredibly, the match was halved with both teams made bogey at the long par-3. After Mickelson found the green with the tee shot, Kisner blew his 50-foot putt well passed the hole and Mickelson could not make the return putt. For the Internationals, it was a big psychological boost to grab the half so they can start day two only two points behind instead of three.
Not surprisingly, American Captain Steve Sticker was pleased with the opening day’s result but is wary of what might lie ahead.
“There's still a long, long ways to go. But we very much liked the day and the way it started," he said.
DAY TWO FOUR BALLS
1.35am Patrick Reed & Jordan Spieth V Adam Hadwin & Hideki Matsuyama
1.50am Justin Thomas & Rickie Fowler V Branden Grace & Louis Oosthuizen
2.05am Kevin Kisner & Phil Mickelson V Marc Leishman & Jason Day
2.20am Charley Hoffman & Kevin Chappell V Anriban Lahiri & Charl Schwartzel
2.35am Brooks Koepka & Dustin Johnson V Jhonattan Vegas & Adam Scott
*Times are AEST