Americans Shutout Internationals on Day One
Prior to play, Kiwi Michael Campbell, flanked on both sides by the International and American teams, performed the Haka - a Maori war dance - on the putting green outside the clubhouse. The Maori are New Zealand's indigenous Polynesian people.
'It's simply challenging our opponents,' Campbell said of the Haka.
The U.S. willingly accepted that challenge on Thursday.
Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson got the U.S. off on the right foot by routing Australians Greg Norman and Steve Elkington 5-and-4. The match only lasted 14 holes, not one of which was halved.
The four other matches were closer, but all ended with the Red, White and Blue on the winning side. In a battle of Presidents Cup rookies, Stewart Cink and Kirk Triplett bettered Retief Goosen and Mike Weir 3-and-2. Hal Sutton and Jim Furyk topped Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby 1-up, the same score Tiger Woods and Notah Begay beat Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. David Duval and Davis Love III also won by the same 1-up score over Nick Price and Carlos Franco.
The Americans used the hard, fast greens at the Robert Trent Jones golf course to their advantage; the same way in which they did the first two times the event was contested in Prince William County, Va. Through five matches in 1996, The U.S. led 4-1. At the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994, the U.S. swept the first five matches, though it was Four-Ball. That year, the Americans went on to soundly defeat the Internationals 20-12.
Thursday, both teams sported black ribbons on their hats in honor of the 17 men and women who died on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen last week.
Mickelson/Lehman vs. Norman/Elkington
Steve Elkington struck the first shot of the 4th Presidents Cup, but it was Tom Lehman who drew first blood. Lehman sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 1st to take a 1-up lead. The U.S. never trailed in the match.
Norman and Elkington, who both underwent hip surgery this year, spent the better part of the day trying to find the firm Virginia greens. Despite squaring the match at the 2nd, Norman and Elk lost holes 3-8. They did manage to win the par-3 9th with a birdie, but carded a front-nine 41 to enter the inward half 5-down to the American squad.
Lehman and Mickelson maintained a 5-up advantage over the first four holes on the back nine, and closed out the match by posting a par 5 at the 14th.
'We've been looking forward to this day for the past two years,' said Mickelson. 'We wanted to comeback from the shellacking we took (in 1998). We did that today.'
Triplett/Cink vs. Weir/Goosen
They were the third match out, but the second to come in. Playing in their first professional team match-play competition, Triplett and Cink looked like wily veterans on Thursday. The two rookies put on a picture-perfect display of how to play alternate shot golf. Cink stuck the approach shots; Triplett converted the putts.
Leading 1-up through 11 holes, Triplett drained a six-foot birdie putt at the 12th to go 2-up. The Americans then went 3-up with another birdie putt by Triplett. Sporting a baseball cap rather than his trademark bucket hat, Triplett made his third birdie in as many holes to take a commanding 4-up lead with four holes to play.
Fellow rookies Goosen and Weir managed to win the 15th to cut their deficit to 3-down, however, Triplett rolled in a 30-foot birdie at the 16th to win the match 3-and-2, as the Internationals were conceded their birdie putt. The U.S. now held a 2-0 overall lead.
'I set him up with some pretty good birdie putts and he drained them all,' Cink said of his teammate. 'Kirk had an awesome day putting.'
Sutton/Furyk vs. Allenby/Appleby
In two previous Ryder Cup and one President Cup matches, Furyk was a perfect 3-0 in singles competition. However, he was 0-7 in team play.
Thursday, Furyk collected his first personal team victory. He and Sutton were cruising through 12 holes, before the Aussies pulled a birdie out of their hat at the 13th to cut the American's lead to 1-up.
Sutton made a 3-foot par putt at the 16th to reclaim a 2-up lead with two holes to play. But a bogey at the 17th opened the door for the International squad to earn at least a half-point.
It wasn't to be.
Sutton smoked his tee shot at the par-4 18th. Furyk then stuck his approach shot from 181 yards inside that of the Internationals. The Aussies weren't able to convert their birdie putt, leaving the U.S. with two putts to win the match, which they did, 1-up.
'We had plenty of chances (to close out the match),' said Sutton. 'They hit a great shot on the 13th out of the rough and we were in the fairway. That kind of took the wind out of our sails. Then we missed a few putts, but fortunately, we came out on top.'
Woods/Begay III vs. Els/Singh
It was considered the match of the day and it lived up to its billing. Former college buddies Tiger Woods and Notah Begay won the first hole and staked themselves to a 3-up lead through 10 holes. That's when Els and Singh woke up.
At the par-3 11th, Begay hit his tee shot six feet from the cup, but Singh responded by sticking his to within two feet. Woods missed his birdie putt, while Els made his to get within 2-down.
Singh and Els went on to square the match by winning the 12th and 13th holes with a par and a birdie, respectively.
The turning point came at the par-5 14th. Following a monster drive by Tiger, Begay hit a fairway wood from 221 yards, which barely cleared the water, onto the green. Singh had a 10-foot birdie putt to halve the hole but couldn't convert. Woods and Begay two-putted for birdie and a 1-up lead. It stayed that way for the remainder of the match.
The 16th hole provided the event's first true show of sporting emotion. Faced with a 20-foot par putt to halve the hole and maintain their 1-up advantage, Woods dropped the putt, pumped his fist and traded high-fives with his teammate and caddie. Els was forced to make a five-foot par save just to halve the hole.
'Obviously, the 16th was a big blow,' said Els. 'What can you say? We've got a long way to go. We have 36 holes tomorrow. It's a big day. We can get it back tomorrow.'
Duval/Love III vs. Price/Franco
The day's final match was the most closely contested on the first day. Neither side led by more than 1-up until the U.S. put together back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th holes to go 2-up with three holes to play.
Struggling with his flatstick all day, Price finally made a putt at the 17th to go 1-down entering the final hole. However, the Zimbabwean came up short with his approach to the home hole. Franco narrowly missed chipping-in to halve the match, leaving the Americans with two putts from the fringe to win 1-up.
This is the first time in the four-year history of the Presidents Cup that only five matches were played on the first day. Friday, there will be 36-holes of competition scheduled with five morning Four-Ball matches and five afternoon Foursomes. Friday Morning Four-Ball Matches
Sutton/Azinger vs. Campbell/Goosen
Lehman/Roberts vs. Weir/Elkington
Furyk/Duval vs. Price/Norman
Woods/Begay III vs. Maruyama/Franco
Mickelson/Love III vs. Els/Singh
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.