The United States took an early lead in foursomes over the International team at Harding Park as the Presidents Cup got underway in San Francisco.
Fred Couples’ America side started slowly against Greg Norman’s Internationals in the four-day Ryder Cup-style event, which the USA have not lost since their only defeat in seven matches in 1998.
There has also been a tie, in 2003, but the way the Americans came back strongly in the six alternate shot matches yesterday suggested they would not be conceding the trophy lightly come Sunday.
Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim got the home team off to a winning start by coming from behind to beat Canada’s Mike Weir and South African Tim Clark two up, while Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, the world numbers one and three, dominated their match with Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
Woods and Stricker missed just two fairways and two greens between them on the way to a crushing six and four victory over world number 10 Ogilvy, the only top-10 ranked player in the International team, and teenage rookie Ishikawa to give the USA an early 2-0 lead.
“I think this is our fifth straight tournament playing together,” Woods said of his playing partner. “So we’ve definitely got used to one another and Stricks is just a great dude to play with.
“We went out there and we didn’t give these guys a chance to get in the match and we put the hammer on pretty good.”
Stricker added: “We played well together and he got it on there and I was able to make some putts and vice versa. It was a lot of fun.”
All was not lost on the opening day for the Internationals, who had been up early in four of the six matches before the Americans rallied.
Ernie Els and captain’s pick Adam Scott got Norman’s side on the scoreboard as they continued their successful partnership with a two and one win over Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair, giving them their third win in four Presidents Cup matches together.
Scott’s performance came in for particular scrutiny, having been picked by Norman despite a disappointing year on the PGA Tour, and the Australian golfer was a happy man after the win.
He said: “It’s great for me but more importantly we needed a point for the team. Things were looking good early on but some matches turned around so we really needed this one.”
Els praised Scott for keeping their partnership in the match.
“I missed some birdie putts but he hit the ball so good today,” Els said. “If I had holed some of those this could have been over three or four holes earlier.
“We had to make some par-saving putts but Adam played the last two holes brilliantly. I have a great partner and obviously a great pick.”
Of the remaining matches out on the course, American major winners this year Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink were one down on Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby with one hole to play. Couples, though, was watching his team go up in the other two matches.
Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry were one up on Camilo Villegas and Angel Cabrera with two to play while Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard led Retief Goosen and Y E Yang by two holes with three to play.