Date: October 08, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Internationals on the ropes

The United States has put a huge downpayment on its sixth successive Presidents Cup victory with a crushing 4-1 scoreline in the opening foursomes.

Sparked by Rickie Fowler’s white-hot flat stick at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, the Americans used a swag of one-putts to put the International team to the sword early and often.

And even when the Internationals threatened a mid-round rally, a series of missed putts and drowned drives and approach shots derailed any momentum in a hammer blow for the host team’s chances.

The International team has never won the Cup when trailing after foursomes competition on the opening day – and the mountain already looks ominously high.

International captain Nick Price, who played hardball to get the number of opening foursomes and fourball matches slashed one to five, might well have wished it had been a couple fewer.

But the Zimbabwean legend was upbeat when asked how his team would start that climb back.

“We’ve got 25 points left – we can’t get down now, we’ve got a lot of golf left,” Price said.

“We can turn it around tomorrow, just as quickly as they did today.

“Golf’s a fickle game, especially 18-hole matchplay, so I’ve got to go and talk to them say keep your chins up and let’s play golf tomorrow.”

Fowler and Jimmy Walker, although out in the third match, were the first ones finished with a dominant 5&4 win on the back of six made birdies and another conceded on their final hole, the 14th against Cup rookie Anirban Lahiri and Thongchai Jaidee.

“Rickie made some great putts,” Walker said.

“Straight out of the gate I ran one by a little too far and he buries it coming back.

“Then I hit a couple of good iron shots for him coming in and he just kept burying them. It was just solid play.”

In the top match, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama had ample chances to go with Bubba Watson and the hot short stick of J.B. Holmes, but simply couldn’t buy a putt.

Matsuyama, in particular, was way out of sorts on the greens and couldn’t cash in on some quality approaches by his Australian teammate.

And when Scott’s approach on the 16th went haywire, Holmes, as he’d done throughout, made the Internationals pay with his putter, rolling in a fifth birdie to seal a 3&2 victory to cash in on their attacking mantra.

“We played excellent in all the practice rounds I had with Bubba, we liked the course set-up and how we were playing, so to us it was a no-brainer to play aggressive,” Holmes said.

Jason Day and fellow Queenslander Steve Bowditch engaged in the day’s longest and most entertaining battle, eventually succumbing 1-down to Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson.

There had never been more than two holes in the match, and when the Aussie combo teamed for a winning par up the 12th, there was a sense of a late rally.

With Johnson having found the sand on the par-3 13th, the sense of opportunity was heavy in the air until Mickelson produced some trademark magic with his trusty lob wedge.

The veteran left-hander, who has played in every Presidents Cup, somehow blasted the ball into the hole for a miraculous birdie and the 2-up margin stood the next four holes until the Aussies ran out of holes.

Day made a spectacular birdie putt from long range on the 17th to extend the match, then Bowditch gave his mate a makeable eagle try on the par-five last hole.

But again, just when the tide was turning, Johnson nailed his approach inside 2.5m to make the task effectively impossible.

Day’s eagle try sat on the lip, but even that wasn’t enough for the Americans to need to putt and the concession ensured the late rally proved ultimately fruitless in a 2-down loss.

Cup rookies Marc Leishman and Danny Lee had problems early in nervously losing the first two holes against world No.1 Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.

But just when the Aussie-Kiwi combination appeared to be fighting back into the match early on the back nine, all manner of problems beset them.

There were chunked chips, drowned drives, skullled chip shots and 330-degree hookouts – all of which compounded on previous errors in a 4&3 hiding.

The only bright spot for the International team came from South African duo Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace who powered past Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed for a 3&2 victory and captain Nick Price’s only point.

It was Grace’s first Cup point after going without in four matches in the 2013 edition at Muirfield, Ohio.

“We knew we needed to start better (than in previous editions of the Cup in foursomes) … and we thought we could give the boys some momentum in the second match,” Oosthuizen said.

“But (the Americans) just played too well.”