The first session of the Presidents Cup started with a bang from Tiger Woods and ended in a whimper from the rest of the United States team. In a surprising start, the International team leads 4-1 after Day 1.
Woods, the American playing-captain, made birdie to win the first two holes of the opening match. For primetime golf in the United States, the event was off and running. Woods carried Justin Thomas in the first match, making six birdies in 15 holes, but by the time he was finished, the 5th match was also just about complete.
Woods and Thomas won 4 and 3, but Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland trailed Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen by three holes in a match that was as good as over. The matches in-between? They all went to the Internationals.
Sungjae Im pitched in for eagle on the first hole of the 2nd match — which never saw either team lead by more than one hole. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay hung around plenty long until Hadwin pushed the Internationals ahead for good on the 16th hole. Ancer and Oosthuizen finished their drubbing of Johnson and Woodland — in which the reigning U.S. Open champ didn’t record a single birdie — and it was suddenly 2-1 Internationals.
By now, Woods had donned the captain’s earpiece again, but any inspiration was too late for his team of visiting players. Adam Scott and Ben An never trailed against Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau, and a 30-foot birdie from Hideki Matsuyama on the 17th hole clinched a half in his match with teammate C.T. Pan. When Patrick Reed’s long birdie try on the 18th slid past the hole, it was a stunning result. To put plainly, it was the Internationals day.
Perhaps the shot of the day was a microcosm for the Americans’ play. Dustin Johnson’s tee shot on the short, par-4 11th, which rolled out to just five feet for eagle, was followed by a miss. Ancer then made a 3 of his own, and an opportunity was squandered.
“We have a plan in place,” Woods said to Steve Sands bluntly after the day was done.
The International team had not led after the first session in a Presidents Cup since the 2005 event at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were the captains and Tiger Woods was the youngest player in the American team. Just a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday, Woods is now the oldest player on the United States squad, somehow one of just two winners Thursday, and he was off to make his selections for the Friday foursomes (alternate shot). On Friday, he’ll pair with Thomas again, this time in the 4th slot against Hideki Matsuyama and Ben An. The 2019 Presidents Cup is indeed off and running.
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