Master putters place United States on top

Internationals' Jason Day showing his frustration after missing a putt on the 18th green. The Australian world No. 2 and partner Steven Bowditch fell to the US' Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson on the final hole.
Internationals' Jason Day showing his frustration after missing a putt on the 18th green. The Australian world No. 2 and partner Steven Bowditch fell to the US' Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson on the final hole. PHOTO: REUTERS

INCHEON • Jack Nicklaus predicted superior putting would be the key at this year's Presidents Cup and so it proved yesterday as the United States' prowess on the greens helped them to a 4-1 lead over the Internationals after the opening day's foursomes.

The American big guns fired straight and true - Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson finished off Danny Lee and Marc Leishman 4 and 3, while Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker crushed Asian duo Thongchai Jaidee and Anirban Lahiri 5 and 4.

Australia's world No. 2 Jason Day and partner Steven Bowditch fell to Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson on the final hole (2 down) while Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama fluffed putt after putt against Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes to lose 3 and 2.

The only bright spot for the Internationals at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea was the South African pairing of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen.

They defeated Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed 3 and 2.

Internationals skipper Nick Price said his team were down but not out. "We are not in the situation we'd like to be after the first round but there's an awful lot of golf to play," he noted.

After winning just one of the last 10 editions of the Presidents Cup, the Internationals were thought to have their best chance in years in South Korea, the first Asian country to host the event.

But home advantage and the format change - reducing the points on offer to 30 from 34 - seemed to do little to inspire the Internationals. They were trailing in every match by the second hole.

World No. 1 Spieth said he and Dustin Johnson could have been even further ahead of the opposition. "That front nine, we played some really solid golf and we had putts to win almost every single hole," he added.

Spieth, considered one of the best putters in the world, observed that he dovetailed well with the big-hitting Johnson in the alternate shot format.

"D.J. hits the par-fives. I have a lot of birdie putts. We feel like that's an advantage to us, both of those," he said.

The Presidents Cup continues today with foursomes. While US skipper Jay Haas kept all his four winning pairs together for the second day, Price is desperate to find some winning combinations.

Haas opted to first put out the big guns, Spieth and Dustin Johnson, and Price countered with his lone Day 1 winners Grace and Oosthuizen.

After that, it will be all change for the International team as Price chose to field two all-Australian teams of Scott and Day, and Leishman and Bowditch, to try to turn things around.

They will take on Zach Johnson and Mickelson. and Holmes and Watson respectively.

Charl Schwartzel will appear alongside Thongchai against the two Americans who sat out yesterday, Chris Kirk and Bill Haas.

And rookie South Korean Bae Sang Moon gets his chance with Korean-born Kiwi Danny Lee - in a pairing that will thrill local fans - against Fowler and Walker.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'Master putters place United States on top'. Print Edition | Subscribe