It seemed as though we were headed for total American domination on Thursday at the Presidents Cup, but the Internationals used a weather delay to regroup. The Americans still wound up winning the day, though, 3.5 to 2.5 with clutch play down the stretch.
Thursday was the first of two fourball competitions in the event at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. If the Americans don't win the competition, many will look back at the squandered early leads on Day 1 as the reason for the failure. For now, they hold the advantage.
Here's a look at the results from Thursday.
It takes 17.5 points for one side to win the event, and Couples' team got off to a fast start. Jason Sobel had a playful idea for Couples to explore in the event his team clinched the win before Sunday.
He was obviously a bit premature with is comment, even in jest. From the looks of the picture from Golf.com's Twitter account, three of Couples' biggest stars were loose and sharp the night before the event:
Woods and Dufner at least played relaxed on Thursday. The same can't be said for Mickelson. His team was one of the American twosomes that didn't win their matchup.
Match play is a different animal. Some players have what it takes to excel in this format, and some don't. Sobel reminds fans not to get overly excited about the Americans narrow win on Day 1.
Here's a look at who shined and who fell short in each of the six matches.
Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker vs. Graham DeLaet and Jason Day
This was a hard choice because DeLaet was more consistent, but with the match on the line, Day won the 18th to give the internationals a huge point. It capped a big comeback considering the Americans actually led for 12 holes in the match.
Yahoo! Sports' Shane Bacon captures Day's clutch putt.
Both Mahan and Snedeker are equally to blame for blowing what was once a three-up lead. Day and DeLaet simply outperformed them with the money on the line.
Bill Haas and Webb Simpson vs. Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama
Without the Aussie's stellar play, Haas and Simpson would have run away with this one. Matsuyama did win the 18th hole with a birdie, but Scott's six birdies and an eagle kept the team in position to obtain the half point.
After a birdie on the first hole, Simpson wasn't a factor the rest of the day. Impressive play by Haas carried the Americans, but in the end Scott got help from Matsuyama and Simpson didn't step up.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley vs. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel
The 29-year-old South African had seven birdies on the day. He and his countrymen Oosthuizen took control of the match midway through and coasted to a win. Their play keyed the beginning of the Internationals' resurgence.
Randall Mell of the Golf Channel recognizes the South Africans giving the International team their first lead of the day.
Aside from an eagle on the seventh hole, Bradley didn't do much all day. The Americans will need a stronger effort from him over the next three days to secure a win.
Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth vs. Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge
Perhaps only Scott was as good as Stricker on Thursday. He had eight birdies, and his ability to save par on the 18th hole secured the match for the Americans. The official PGA Tour account admires Stricker's clutch play.
Known as one of the greatest match-play competitors in history, Els didn't make his presence felt until the 17th hole. He put pressure on Stricker and Spieth with a birdie there, but wasn't a major factor overall.
Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods vs. Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman
The Hero—Woods and Kuchar
Both men were solid, combining for eight birdies. They held the lead for 14 holes and were never in serious danger. Woods and Kuchar enjoyed the spoils of the victory Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style:
Cabrera looked like a deer in headlights most of the day. He left Leishman all alone to battle two of the game's best players. He didn't win a hole all afternoon.
Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner vs. Branden Grace and Richard Sterne
In a complete rout, Johnson's three early birdies established a lead that Grace and Sterne couldn't erase. It was never close as Johnson and Dufner played well, but Johnson deserves the recognition for shining when the match was still competitive.
Neither Sterne nor Grace was great on Thursday, but the latter put up a bit more of a fight. Sterne's bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 helped to put the International team in a hole. Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press gives a hint as to how poorly teams of Grace and Sterne and Cabrera and Leishman played.
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