The International side made a big statement in the opening match as two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen and Adam Scott dispatched world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Fred Couples, 4 and 3.
Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco hung on for a full point for the U.S. side when they beat Nick O'Hern and Tim Clark, 1-up.
The fourth contest easily went to the American team of Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank. They trounced Peter Lonard and Stuart Appleby, 4 and 2.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and Angel Cabrera took out one of the best American teams, Davis Love III and Kenny Perry. The International captured the match, 2 and 1.
Thursday's final match was the most lopsided. The International team of Trevor Immelman, a surprising captain's pick by Gary Player, and Mike Weir, having one of his worst seasons, destroyed Stewart Cink and David Toms, 6 and 5.
'I think we're a little disappointed,' admitted American captain Jack Nicklaus. 'Tomorrow is another day. We're basically a half-point behind.'
Woods and Couples never got on track Thursday, specifically Couples, who hit only one fairway.
The International side won the fourth, then Couples missed a 3-footer at the sixth to drop the Americans 2-down. Scott rolled in a 7-footer for birdie at the seventh to go 3-up, but the Americans answered with a win at the ninth to make the turn 2-down.
Couples drained a 25-footer for birdie at the par-5 10th, but Goosen ran in a 15-footer on top of his to halve the hole. The Internationals won the 12th, then the U.S. pair was in trouble at 14.
Goosen, as he did all afternoon, lagged a long birdie try to tap-in range. Woods missed the green with his approach, then Couples duffed his chip. Woods had to hole his chip to halve the hole and extend the match, but his chip hit the back of the cup, but rimmed out.
'Some of the shortcomings for me come out in alternate-shot,' admitted Couples. 'Today I was out-classed by three guys and I couldn't help Tiger at all.'
The first match to make it the distance was the second match. Furyk injured his rib cage on the second hole, but recovered enough to help the U.S. take a 1-up lead at the turn.
The lead changed five times in the next five holes, but when Hensby stroked home a 3-footer for par, the International side led 1-up through 16.
Hensby went from hero to goat quickly as he lost his ball off the tee at 17. The Americans won with a routine par to square the match, then it was off to the closing hole.
At the 18th, Singh drove right in the trees, but Hensby failed to reach the green with the team's second. Funk barely got over a bunker with his second, but ended up with a great shot that stopped 20 feet from the hole.
Singh chipped to 3 feet, and Furyk barely missed his birdie try. The Americans conceded the Internationals very missable putt to give the sides a half.
The next match also went the distance, as Mickelson and DiMarco squandered a 2-up lead with seven holes to play. O'Hern hit a spectacular second shot to the par-5 12th to set up a short eagle putt by Clark. They squared the match one hole later.
The U.S. won the 14th to briefly go 1-up, but the Internationals won the next hole to draw even. Mickelson missed an 8-footer for birdie that would have given them a 1-up lead, but they got a reprieve when O'Hern's 3-footer for par did not fall.
DiMarco had a good look at birdie at 17 that would have closed the match, but both pairs left with pars. At 18, both teams had birdie putts from around 20 feet and neither converted, giving the U.S. their 1-up win.
'Chris and I were playing very well,' said Mickelson. 'We hit two bad shots on the back side that gave them a couple of holes. We were able to gut it out down the stretch.'
The fourth match went the Americans' way once they took the fourth hole. The sides traded wins at six and seven and when Appleby drove in a hazard at eight, the Internationals lost the hole and fell 2-down.
The Americans won No. 11 to move 3-up. The sides halved the next four holes and the Americans had two putts from 20 feet to win the match on 16. Verplank, the only rookie for Nicklaus' squad, rolled in the birdie putt to end the contest.
'We weren't quite in rhythm, but near the middle of the round, then at the turn, we started stringing together good shots and good putts,' said Verplank. 'I knew we were going to be a good team and today, we were.'
Love and Perry drew even when Perry sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 11th. The two sides remained even until Campbell and Cabrera won the 14th. Perry missed an 8-foot par putt at the 16th and the U.S. were 2-down with two to play.
Perry atoned for the miscue at 16 with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 17th. Unfortunately for the U.S., Campbell ran home a 15-footer to halve the hole and win the match, 2 & 1.
'I think we gelled very well together as a team,' said Campbell. 'On the back nine, we holed a few crucial par putts, then I managed to finish off on 17.'
The anchor match was never close as Weir sank a 7-foot birdie putt on the first. The Internationals kept it going with wins at four, five, nine, 10 and 12 to make short work of the American team.
On Friday, there will be six four-ball matches with five foursomes and five four-balls on Saturday. All 12 players are in on Sunday for the singles matches.