The 13th edition of the Presidents Cup got off to a surprising start at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia, with the International team bolting out to a 4-1 tournament lead.
American captain Tiger Woods scored the country's only point of the opening day—airing Wednesday night in the States, played Thursday in Australia—alongside Justin Thomas.
The opening round was a four-ball structure, meaning two players from each team paired together to play against each other. Each golfer is responsible for his own ball at every hole with the best score counting for the duo.
The first side to 15 points claims the trophy.
The U.S. holds the all-time lead in the Presidents Cup series, dating back to 1994, 10-1-1. However, International captain Ernie Els took a different all-time statistic into consideration and benefitted from it:
Below is a look at how the first day shook out.
Day 1 Results
Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas def. Joaquin Niemann and Marc Leishman: 4 and 3
Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer def. Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson: 4 and 3
Byeong Hun An and Adam Scott def. Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau: 2 and 1
Sungjae Im and Adam Hadwin def. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele: 1 UP
C.T. Pan and Hideki Matsuyama def. Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson: 1 UP
Courtesy of the tournament's official website
Friday: Round 2, Foursomes
Saturday: Round 3, Four-ball; Round 4, Foursomes
Sunday: Round 5, Singles
More schedule information available at the tournament's official website
Day 1 Recap
Though the Americans as a whole didn't perform as well as expected, their captain did his part as Woods led the U.S. to its first point of the tournament.
Woods, paired with Thomas, didn't do it alone. However, he was the backbone of the duo. Thomas knew it, too:
The 15-time major champion notched six individual birdies, one coming at No. 5 and another coming at the 14th hole to put the U.S. 3-up with four holes remaining:
The Americans, who never trailed Niemann and Leishman, secured the point on the following hole on Woods' sixth birdie.
Immediately following his duties as a player, Woods transitioned into full-on captain mode:
The Americans would have benefitted more from Woods continuing to play, though, as the International team led in three of the four other active matches at the time of Woods and Thomas' win.
The next matchup to finish was Ancer and Oosthuizen tying things up for the International team by topping Johnson and Woodland. Ancer and Oosthuizen captured four of the first five holes and never trailed:
Johnson will be kicking himself over the 11th hole in particular, missing a three-foot shot for eagle. Meanwhile, Ancer and Oosthuizen were in rhythm throughout, knocking in six birdies through the 13th hole alone.
Momentum was carried on when Australian native Scott and Hun An put the Internationals up 2-1 by outlasting Finau and DeChambeau. Scott looked comfortable as could be on his home soil when he sealed the win by making his putt on the 17th hole.
Scott had also hit a clutch putt on No. 14 after he had just sunk a birdie on No. 13 to put his team 2-up:
Following that, Im and Hadwin put away their match against Cantlay and Schauffele on the final hole. This pairing went back-and-forth with Im and Hadwin leading 1-up through the first five holes before the Americans led 1-up for No. 7 and 8.
It was then tied from No. 9 to No. 15 before Hadwin's birdie on the 16th hole.
The most dramatic matchup was saved for last. While Matsuyama and Pan led most of the time, Reed and Simpson were able to wrestle them into a tie three times. Their round began tied through the first two hoes. Matsuyama and Pan would then oscillate between 2-up and 1-up leads.
Reed won No. 16 to bring it back to a tie:
Any feel-good residue from Reed's birdie was short-lived:
As pumped as those on hand at Royal Melbourne were to see Scott and the International side dominate, they may have been equally as satisfied seeing Reed struggle. Reed arrived to the Presidents Cup facing backlash for allegedly cheating and earning a two-stroke rules violation at the Hero World Challenge last week:
Reed and the rest of the Americans need to put anything that happened before landing in Australia and everything that happened on Day 1 at Royal Melbourne behind them in order to avoid a major upset.