The Presidents Cup doesn't quite match up to the prestige or history of the Ryder Cup, but you'd have a hard time telling the difference between the two on paper after a thrilling day of action at Muirfield Village on Thursday.
Although they were in position to do even more damage, the Americans have the lead after Day 1 in Ohio. Captain Fred Couples and Team USA will take a 3.5-2.5 advantage into Day 2 of the match-play tournament.
The tournament's official Twitter account had this post as the score went final:
Stricker secures the full point for America w/ a 1UP win over Els/de Jonge. After day one, USA leads 3.5 to 2.5. #PresCup— The Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) October 3, 2013
ESPN's Justin Ray added this tweet with some positive vibes for the current leaders:
USA leads 3.5-2.5 after day 1. Seven of nine times team that led after 1st session went on to win the @PresidentsCup— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) October 3, 2013
Here's a complete breakdown of all six fourball matches, courtesy PresidentsCup.com.
|USA||Hunter Mahan/Brandt Snedeker||1-Up, INT||Jason Day/Graham DeLaet||INT|
|USA||Bill Haas/Webb Simpson||Halved||Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama||INT|
|USA||Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley||2 and 1, INT||Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel||INT|
|USA||Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth||1-Up, USA||Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge||INT|
|USA||Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods||5 and 4, USA||Angel Cabrera/Marc Leishman||INT|
|USA||Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner||5 and 3, USA||Branden Grace/Richard Sterne||INT|
The United States got fourball wins from three different pairings, highlighted by a Tiger Woods/Matt Kuchar 5-and-4 demolition of International opponents Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman. Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner also won in impressive fashion with a 5-and-3 tally over Branden Grace and Richard Sterne.
Steve Stricker and President Cup newbie Jordan Spieth picked up the third and final win of the day for the U.S., a 1-up nail-biter over Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge.
Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel defeated 2012 Ryder Cup partners Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for the International team, and Jason Day cupped a dramatic birdie putt on No. 18 to vault he and Graham DeLaet to a 1-up win over Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker.
Bill Haas and Webb Simpson halved their match with current Masters champion Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama.
Team USA team jumped out quickly across the board on Day 1, at one point having a share of the lead in every match on the course. PGA Tour's official account noted as much on Twitter:
It's all USA in the early going. Mahan-Snedeker lead 3 UP, while the Americans lead all other matches 1 UP. Scores: http://t.co/oV7dRFHuGA— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 3, 2013
But the Internationals roared back and have to feel good about the remaining three days on the schedule without much distance between themselves and the Americans heading into Day 2.
Expect to see assistant U.S. captain Davis Love III and his good luck pet squirrel to be in attendance again on Friday since the Americans managed to retain their lead.
Across the board, the talent assembled on both sides was evident right from the get-go.
If Mickelson-Bradley was the "it" pairing at the Ryder Cup last year when it came to having fun, then Woods-Kuchar should be the hot-button duo when talking about the Presidents Cup.
Kuchar and Woods went 1990s on the crowd after the former sunk an early birdie putt, going in for the classic Smith-DJ Jazzy Jeff handshake from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
They went for it again after Kuchar birdied No. 9 and gave the U.S. a 2-up lead.
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel was disappointed when they didn't revive the celebration later in the round:
In the most disappointing reaction of the day, Tiger Woods just fist-bumped Matt Kuchar after birdie. Total disrespect for the Fresh Prince.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) October 3, 2013
On the course, Woods and Kuchar were outstanding. Following Leishman's birdie on No. 8, the Americans won five of the next six holes for the 5-and-4 victory and the first point of the tournament for either team.
Unfortunately, that lead would be short-lived.
Thanks to Day and DeLaet's late heroics, the Nick Price-led squad would even things up at one on the scoreboard. The Presidents Cup Twitter account had this post as the duo completed an impressive comeback:
It was a rough afternoon for Mickelson and Bradley, who squandered a 2-up lead on the back nine to Oosthuizen and Schwartzel. Bradley almost took a fan's head off with a tee shot during that stretch:
Shots like that allowed the International squad to take home a decisive 2-and-1 victory and give Price a 2-1 lead on the scoreboard.
In the meantime, the first halved match of the tournament was completed; Haas and Simpson had a 1-up lead following a see-saw back nine, but Matsuyama's birdie on No. 18 led to a clean slate and a half-point for both sides.
Elsewhere, Johnson and PGA Championship winner Dufner arguably were just as dominant as Woods and Kuchar in their win. Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman had this post on Twitter as the two burgeoning stars got the job done:
Ohio's own Jason Dufner teams with another midwesterner in Zach Johnson. They win 5&3 #Dufnering— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) October 3, 2013
With shots like Dufner's birdie on No. 9 in view, it's no surprise the pair recorded the largest victory of the day and pulled the United States to a 2.5-2.5 tie in the process.
The last match to finish included PGA Tour rookie Spieth, who had an important birdie on No. 14 to put the Americans up by two holes—it would be crucial to he and Stricker's win after Els threatened to crash the party with a birdie at No. 17.
Though he's the young gun in a field that has future Hall of Famers in check, Spieth continues to impress in big moments. CBS Sports' Kyle Porter trusts the Texas native with his life:
If my life is on the line and a 20-foot putt determines what happens, Jordan Spieth might be my first phone call.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) October 3, 2013
With Day 1 now in the books, the field will return to Muirfield Village on Friday for another round of foursomes action. The Americans have the lead for now, but it's far too early to tip the scale in either team's favor.
If the remaining three days combined hold half the excitement that Thursday did, we're in for a real treat.
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