Day 1 of the 2011 Presidents Cup is in the books. And the USA team is up 3.5 points to 2.5 over the International team.
The Americans had to dig deep and came back to halve two matches that the International team looked like they had in the bag. It certainly provides the Americans some momentum going into the best-ball matches on Friday.
The first point was won by the pair of American Cup rookies, as Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson defeated Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa four-and-two.
Els and Ishikawa started off quickly, and were up two holes after four played. But the Americans rallied with three consecutive birdies to go up one hole after seven played. From there the Americans settled down and played solid golf, and won it after a birdie on the 16th hole.
A great pairing this one by Simpson and Watson, who complemented each other very well. Simpson started the match nervous, while Watson was playing solid from the start. But once Simpson settled down, they just rolled over Els and Ishikawa.
The International team tied the Americans when K.J. Choi and Adam Scott crushed Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. They won soundly seven-and-six in a match that the saw Choi and Scott play as close to perfect as there can be.
For Stricker and Woods, it was the worst defeat they have suffered in the Presidents Cup. They never seemed to get going, as both played poorly from the first tee. They were the only team not to make a birdie yesterday. We might be seeing a split of the pair on Friday.
So much for the highly anticipated face-off between Woods and Scott. The win by Choi and Scott is not a surprise, but the score certainly was. As for the Woods-Williams ordeal, they shook hands at the opening tee, and that was it. We can all move-on now.
Hunter Mahan and David Toms gave the USA Team the lead two-to-one when they won six-and-five over Kyung-tae Kim and Y.E. Yang.
The Americans were off to a quick start when they birdied the first hole to get the lead right away. They were up two holes when Kim and Yang birdied the fifth hole to cut the lead to one. But the Americans were playing solid golf and birdied three straight from the 11th hole to finish off the match.
Team USA went up three-to-one after Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson defeated Robert Allenby and Retief Goosen four-and-three.
The Internationals were up one hole after a birdie on the third hole. But Furyk and Mickelson got going with three straight birdies from the seventh hole, and added two more after the 11th and 12th holes to take the commanding four-hole lead.
Allenby and Goosen really haven't been playing well all year long, and looked like the golfers that have seen their best years go by in this match. Even with their contrasting styles, Furyk and Mickelson got the job done for the Americans.
Meanwhile, Mickelson, who didn't bring the belly-putter for this competition, putted flawlessly today. He also became the all-time leader in points won at the Presidents Cup with 21. He passed Vijay Singh, who has 20.5 points and is not playing this time.
The next match to finish was the second match of the day featuring Bill Haas and Nick Watney against Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel.
It was an incredible effort by the Americans, who were two holes down twice in the match. They were down after the sixth hole, and again after the 14th hole. Then the Americans went to work and made back-to-back birdies to square the match.
Haas had a shot to win the match on the 18th hole when he had an 11-foot putt and missed it just left of the hole.
And on the last match still on the course, just when everyone thought that Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day would win it against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, the Americans pulled a miracle comeback and halved the match.
Johnson and Kuchar came back from three down after 11 holes, and more remarkably, down two with two to go and earned a hard-fought half-point. And to think they could have won this match, as Kuchar missed a four-foot putt to win the 15th hole.
After Kuchar hit a monster tee shot on the 18th hole, Baddeley missed with his drive wide right to give the Americans the opening they needed to win the hole and halve the match. His drive went to the side of a small tree on the rough, from where Day just lay up to give Baddeley a fair third shot.
Baddeley's third shot went to the right of the green leaving it 28 feet from the hole. Meanwhile, Johnson's second shot was farther right at 38 feet, but remember it was the Americans' second shot.
It came down to Day needing to hit make the birdie putt to win the match. But he missed it, and gave Johnson the chance to make his six-foot birdie putt to win the hole and halve the match. Johnson made the putt and capped the incredible comeback.
Now the Americans lead by two points after opening day, and that historically has helped the eventual winner of the Cup. The Americans were able to take the crowd away like they set out to do, at least for this day.
It will be interesting to see the adjustments by both teams for Day Two, especially by the International team, which is favored to win the Cup and certainly needs to regroup and counter the Americans on Friday.
For the matches on Day 2, the tee time for the first of the four-ball matches was moved up two hours due to inclement weather expected in the Melbourne area. The Golf Channel also moved their live coverage time to 5:30 pm on Thursday.
Summary of the matches and the results:
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