Americans lead 3 1/2 to 2 1/2 after Day 1 of Prez Cup

By Doug FergusonOctober 3, 2013, 11:40 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods sat in a cart with a tiny squirrel resting on his shoulder. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel walked onto the first tee wearing wigs to make up for their bad haircuts. Fred Couples had cupcakes delivered to him by the opposing captain in honor of his 54th birthday.

Opening day at the Presidents Cup was unlike any other Thursday at Muirfield Village.

Except for the score.

After six hours of fourballs that produced 102 birdies, two eagles and a new celebrity named ''Sammy the Squirrel,'' the Americans won the opening session for the fourth straight time, a solid start in their quest to maintain dominance in this event.


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But it took a great save from a plugged lie in the bunker by Steve Stricker in the final match on the course to give the Americans a 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead. And despite being in another hole, this only felt like a divot to an International team inspired by the clutch play of Hideki Matsuyama, the South African duo of Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, and the refusal to be spooked from trailing early in every match.

''There's plenty of heart on the team,'' Adam Scott said. ''And think we should take a lot of that.''

Ernie Els didn't make a birdie until the 17th hole, but his 12-footer extended the match to the 18th hole. The Internationals looked like they might win the last hole with a par when 20-year-old Jordan Spieth drove into the water and Stricker's approach plugged into the face of the bunker. He blasted out to 3 feet, and de Jonge missed his 18-foot birdie putt to end a wild day.

''You don't want anybody else to have to get that up-and-down other than Steve Stricker, so, God, what a match,'' Spieth said. ''It was incredible.''

That wasn't the only highlight.

Scott chipped in for eagle on the 15th hole and Matsuyama holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the next hole to square their match against Bill Haas and Webb Simpson. Haas answered with an 18-foot birdie putt to go 1 up, only for the 21-year-old Japanese star to hit his 8-iron approach from 168 yards to 2 feet for birdie on the 18th to halve the match.

''There were so many birdies made, you really couldn't keep up,'' Couples said.

As for that squirrel?

Love found it on the second hole and kept it with him for good luck the rest of the way. It was on his wrist, in his pocket, and quickly became the team mascot. At one point, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn put it on Woods' back. It spooked her boyfriend, who at first looked bothered, but later became friends with Sammy.

''I carry a rabbit's foot around a lot. I don't know much about a squirrel, or a live squirrel,'' Couples said.

The International team had its own mascot – Mother Nature.

The Americans bolted out to a big start and were ahead in all six matches early. The round was stopped for 1 1/2 hours because of thunderstorms, and while none of the matches had gone beyond the 10th hole, it felt like a chance for the Internationals to start over.

''The break did us really good,'' Oosthuizen said. ''We came back out, felt refreshed and just played well.''

Jason Day and Graham DeLaet rallied from 3 down to Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker, winning on the 18th hole when Day made a 20-foot birdie putt.

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel gave Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson their first loss. The South Africans, best of friends since junior golf, took their first lead on the 11th hole and didn't lose another hole until they had a 2-and-1 win. Mickelson and Bradley were 3-0 as partners in the Ryder Cup last year and had a 2-up lead through seven holes on Bradley's eagle. They didn't win another hole the rest of the way, however.

''I had good rhythm early on and when we went back out (after the delay), I was just a little bit tight and didn't make very good swings,'' Mickelson said.

The Presidents Cup began with fourballs for the first time since 1996, which should have favored the Internationals. Instead, the Americans won their first fourballs session in 10 years, dating to the second day in South Africa.

Still, this was a moral victory for the International team.

''At the break, I just spoke to most of the guys and said, 'Hey, the U.S. has had everything go their way the front nine, and just be patient,''' captain Nick Price said. ''And what a comeback they made.''

Muirfield Village was set up for birdies, and there were plenty of them. Ten of the 12 teams were at least 8-under par in their rounds.

The exceptions were Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, who were only 3 under in the shortest match of the day. They lost, 5 and 4, to Woods and Matt Kuchar. The Americans used a handshake from ''Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,'' and they used it a lot.

''That was definitely all me,'' Kuchar said. ''That stems from 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.' I figured this guy was the perfect Carlton.''

Woods turned out to be a decent partner, too. Kuchar was his 19th partner in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, and it was a solid debut. Kuchar won at Muirfield Village in June, while Woods is a five-time Memorial champion.

''We both have the low stroke averages in this tournament's history,'' Woods said. ''Put us together and we feel very comfortable how to play this golf course.''

Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in the anchor match were 3 up through three holes and never looked back. Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, the only all-rookie team for the International side, were 2 down after 10 and never got any closer. The match ended on the 15th hole.

The critical part could be Friday with six foursomes matches.

The Americans have won the last four times outright, and they have a 31-13 advantage in the more difficult alternate-shot format. Price kept his teams together, while Couples kept four of his six teams intact.

''I'm not going to lose faith in those teams, to be honest,'' Price said. ''I really think that they're all ready to take their games to the next level.''

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”