United States hold narrow lead in Presidents Cup
Internationals mount fightback after weather delay in Ohio to cut lead to one point
Late afternoon sunlight falls onto the 14th green during the opening fourball matches in the 2013 Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Photograph:Jeff Haynes/Reuters
The United States needed a par on the final hole to retain the overall lead over the Internationals on the first day of the Presidents Cup after almost throwing away a commanding advantage following a lengthy weather delay.
Steve Stricker calmly got up and down from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker to par the 18th, sinking a three-footer to secure the decisive point that allowed the Americans to finish the opening fourballs leading by 3.5 points to 2.5.
At one point, the Americans led in all six encounters at rain-softened Muirfield Village Golf Club where birdies were plentiful but South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel inspired a stirring fightback by the Internationals.
Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, who briefly donned garish wigs on the first tee, came from two down after seven holes to beat British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley 2&1 in a contest of high quality involving four former major winners.
Bradley put the Americans two up by sinking a six-foot eagle putt at the par-five seventh but the South Africans won the next two holes with birdies, Oosthuizen draining a 16-footer at the eighth and Schwartzel tapping in a two-footer at the ninth.
Oosthuizen then put the Internationals one up by knocking in a three-foot birdie putt at the par-five 11th, and his good friend Schwartzel sealed victory with a birdie at the 17th.
“We knew it was going to be difficult, Keegan and Phil are a great team,” said 2010 British Open winner Oosthuizen.
“I think the break did us all really well,” he added, referring to a thunderstorm delay of just under an hour-and-a-half which effectively stalled the early U.S. momentum. “We came back out and felt refreshed.
“We just played well. Whenever Charl was in trouble; I played really well. And whenever I was in trouble, Charl played well.”
“We ham-and-egged it pretty good,” said Woods. “Kuch made a bunch of putts on the front nine, I got it rolling there for a little bit and on the back nine. It was him or me on each hole.”
Zach Johnson and PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner never trailed before beating South Africans Branden Grace and Richard Sterne 5&3 while Stricker and Jordan Spieth ended a birdie fest against South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge with a hard-fought 1-up win.