Americans Shutout Internationals on Day One

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For the first time since the 1996 Presidents Cup, the United States is the front-runner after day one of an international team competition. The Americans blitzed the Internationals, 5-0, in Thursday's foursome matches at the 4th biennial Presidents Cup.
 
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