US lead Presidents Cup
04 October 2013, 14:44
Columbus - Steve Stricker saved par from an 18th-hole bunker to give the United States a 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead over the Internationals after Thursday's opening four-ball matches at the storm-hit Presidents Cup.
The escape allowed Stricker, the oldest US player at 46, and Jordan Spieth, the youngest at 20, to edge South Africa's Ernie Els and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge 1-up in the last match.
Spieth had birdied to win the 14th for a 2-up US lead. Els made his first birdie to win the 17th but Stricker blasted out to two feet at the last and De Jonge missed a 15-foot birdie putt to leave the Americans on top.
"It was a little nerve wracking," Stricker said. "I didn't hit a good iron shot but I made a good up and down to get it done."
American duos at one point led in five matches and were level in another when a 90-minute storm delay hit, eventually helping the visitors who proceeded to fight back at Muirfield Village.
"My team made a great effort coming back," said Nick Price, the Internationals captain. "They played some incredible golf. I'm just so proud of the way they brought it back. They showed the true grit and spirit they have."
The US team, celebrating the 54th birthday of captain Fred Couples, leads the rivalry 7-1-1 and while the Internationals still have not led after a session since 2005, they turned potential disaster into a solid first-day effort.
"The rain delay obviously helped them," Couples said. "They played their hearts out. That last point meant a lot."
It takes 17 1/2 points to win the Cup. Six alternate-shot foursomes are scheduled for Friday with five four-ball and five foursomes matches Saturday and 12 singles on Sunday.
Australia's Jason Day made a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole as he and Canada's Graham DeLaet rallied from 3-down after six holes to beat Hunter Mahan and 2012 PGA playoffs winner Brandt Snedeker 1-up.
"It was important for us to get off to a good start to get the momentum," Day said. "We had to stay patient."
Snedeker sank the fifth US birdie in a row from 25 feet to win the sixth, but Day answered on the par-5 seventh with a birdie and the eighth with a par 3.
DeLaet birdied the 15th and par-3 16th to put the global duo 1-up but Snedeker birdied 17 from four feet to square the match, setting up the dramatic finish.
"We were down," DeLaet said. "We just hung in there and what a putt on 18."
South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel were 2-down after seven but beat five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, the reigning British Open champion, and Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, by 2 and 1.
Mickelson, the only man to play every Presidents Cup, birdied to win the first hole, then Schwartzel birdied to win the second and Mickelson answered with a three-foot birdie at the par-3 fourth.
Bradley eagled to win the par-5 seventh for a 2-up lead, but 2010 British Open winner Oosthuizen answered with a 20-foot birdie to win the par-3 eighth and 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel birdied the ninth to level the match.
After the storm, Oosthuizen birdied the par-5 11th to give the Internationals a lead and Schwartzel birdied 17 to win.
World number one Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion and US PGA Player of the Year, and WGC Match Play winner Matt Kuchar won 5 and 4 over Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman.
Woods is a five-time winner at the Memorial, the US tour event played at Muirfield Village, while Kuchar is the reigning Memorial champion.
Kuchar, the 19th career partner for Woods in Presidents and Ryder Cups, birdied to win the first hole and Woods sank a eight-foot birdie putt to win the sixth to give the US duo a 2-up edge.
Woods won the 10th with a par and the 12th with a nine-foot birdie for a 4-up lead, before Kuchar won the 13th with a birdie. Victory was sealed when Cabrera missed a birdie chip at 14.
"We went out there, had a great time and put it on them," Woods said.
World number two Adam Scott and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama halved with 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson and 2011 PGA playoffs champion Bill Haas.
Masters champion Scott birdied the par-5 11th to square the match but Haas won the 12th and 13th with birdies. Scott chipped in for eagle to win the par-5 15th and Matsuyama birdied the par-3 16th to level again.
Haas birdied the 17th but Matsuyama matched him at 18 to salvage half a point for the Internationals.
"Everyone was battling back today and that was a great half, maybe some of the best golf I've ever been part of in the Presidents Cup," Scott said.
Jason Dufner, the reigning PGA Championship winner, and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson won the first three holes and beat South Africans Branden Grace and Richard Sterne 5 and 3.
Results on Thursday from the opening four-ball matches in the 10th Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village:
Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods (USA) bt Angel Cabrera (ARG)/Marc Leishman (AUS) (Internationals) 5 and 4
Jason Day (AUS)/Graham deLaet (CAN) (Internationals) bt Hunter Mahan/Brandt Snedeker (USA) 1-up
Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)/Charl Schwartzel (RSA) (Internationals) bt Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (USA) 2 and 1
Bill Haas/Webb Simpson (USA) halved with Adam Scott (AUS)/Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) (Internationals)
Jason Dufner/Zach Johnson (USA) bt Richard Sterne (RSA)/Branden Grace (RSA) (Internationals) 5 and 3
Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (USA) bt Ernie Els (RSA)/Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) (Internationals) 1-up
After Day One: United States 3 1/2 Internationals 2 1/2