Internationals shock USA with 4-1 victory in the opening fourball matches of the Presidents Cup
Ernie Els' International side stunned the U.S Team with a dominant victory during the first session of fourballs at the Presidents Cup, winning four out of the five matches to take a 4-1 lead in to Friday.
Winning all but the top match, the International team claimed the largest lead they've ever held after the opening session - which they won for just the fourth time in Presidents Cup history. The last time they held such a commanding lead was the 3.5 - 1.5 lead they gained at Royal Melbourne in 1998, the only contest they went on to win.
Captain Tiger Woods led from the front as he partnered Justin Thomas to victory in the top match against Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann 4&3 for the first point of the day, but it was the only positive outcome for the better ranked side, who lost the final four matches to an impassioned International team.
The opening point for the Internationals came down to the fifth match, as Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer shocked Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland with a 4 and 3 triumph to match the biggest winning margin of the day.
Adam Scott and Byeong Hun An then went on to take down Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau 2&1, while Adam Hadwin and Sungjae Im clinched a 1UP win in a tight tussel against Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan soon followed with their own 1UP victory against Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed.
"We got a long way to go but this is an unbelievable start," Captain Ernie Els said after the first day of play. "We know it's a very tough side we're playing."
"The golf course was very tough. The golf was excellent. I'm really proud of my team."
For Woods, it calls for a strategy change as he bids to become the first Captain to be able to overturn more than a 3 point defecit at a Presidents Cup.
“This is a long four days. I mean, we have to go earn this Cup. Just because we lost the session doesn't mean the Cup's over,” Woods said.
“There's a long way to go. A lot of points available. The guys will regroup and we'll come out tomorrow ready to go.”
The 15-time major champion, who is the second playing Captain is Presidents Cup history, was the best player on the U.S team on Thursday and decided not to sit himself out of the foursomes matches on Friday. Three of the U.S. teams remain unchanged, while every single International team is different.
Jump to Friday's Pairings
4&3: Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas def. Marc Leishman & Joaquin Niemann - USA POINT
Tiger Woods showed dominance from the start: His approach shot to the first was so close his birdie was conceded, and Marc Leishman was unable to match him, putting the U.S. ahead. Woods doubled the lead with a birdie at the second before Leishman quickly pegged them back with a birdie at three, and then Thomas and Woods added birdies at the next two to put them 3UP after five. By the turn that lead was 2UP due to impressive birdies from Niemann, but Tiger added three more birdies to his tally - including at the 14th and 15th holes to ensure the first point of the day was an American one.
1UP: Sungjae Im/ Adam Hadwin def. Patrick Cantlay/ Xander Schauffele - INTERNATIONAL POINT
Youngster Sungjae Im delighted the crowd at Royal Melbourne with an eagle at the first, and followed it up with a birdie at the second to match Xander Schauffele and remain 1UP. The U.S won back-to-back holes at the sixth and seventh to briefly pull ahead, but a par on the ninth was enough to get the match back to level at the turn. In total 13 of the holes were halved in this tight contest, but a par at the 16th gave Adam Hadwin the lead, and it was enough for a 1UP win.
2&1: Byeong Hun An/Adam Scott def. Tony Finau/Bryson Dechambeau - INTERNATIONAL POINT
After trading pars over the first couple of holes veteran International player Adam Scott put his team in front with a birdie at the third, but Tony Finau's soon pulled it back all-square with a birdie two holes later. Scott's partner Byeong Hun An then added a birdie at the sixth to regain the advantage, and Scott grabbed a 2UP lead at the turn with a three at the par-four ninth. From there the International team stayed out in front: A Finau birdie reduced the gap to one at the 12th but Scott answered immediately a hole later to recapture a 2UP lead, which the retained for the remainder of the match to win 2&1.
1UP: Hideki Matsuyama/C.T. Pan def. Patrick Reed/Webb Simpson - INTERNATIONAL POINT
Hideki Matsuyama was the experienced player in this International team and he made sure he played his part, making back-to-back birdies from the third to gain an early 2UP lead. Simpson managed to halve their advantage at the sixth, but CT Pan restored it with a winning par on nine. On the back nine it looked like the USA may have a chance when Reed holed a big putt on the 16th to tie the match, but Matsuyama answered with a 27 footer for birdie on 17 to guarantee at least the half, winning the match 1UP with pars at the last.
4&3: Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen def. Gary Woodland/Dustin Johnson - INTERNATIONAL POINT
They shared birdies at the first hole but it was all the Internationals after that as Louis Oosthuizen made birdies at the second, third and fifth while Abraham Ancer added one at the fourth to quickly gain a 4UP lead through five holes. Dustin Johnson won the only U.S hole of the day with a birdie at the eighth, but Ancer added another birdie at the 13th to put them back to four ahead, and the International closed out a 4&3 win over the pair of U.S Open champions.
Friday Foursomes Pairings
10:02 PM: Adam Scott / Louis Oosthuizen vs. Matt Kuchar / Dustin Johnson
10:15 PM: Joaquin Niemann / Adam Hadwin vs. Patrick Cantlay / Xander Schauffele
10:28 PM: Abraham Ancer / Marc Leishman vs. Patrick Reed / Webb Simpson
10:41 PM: Hideki Matsuyama / Byeong Hun An vs. Tiger Woods / Justin Thomas
10:54 PM: Cameron Smith / Sungjae Im vs. Rickie Fowler / Gary Woodland