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Presidents Cup: Woods, Stricker crash but US in command

Last updated on: November 17, 2011 15:59 IST

Presidents Cup: Woods, Stricker crash but US in command

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The United States recovered from a stunning collapse by the much-vaunted pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to take a commanding 4-2 lead in the Presidents Cup at the end of Thursday's opening foursomes.

Woods and his former caddy Steve Williams had moved to defuse tension early on the opening day of the biennial tournament, shaking hands at the first tee at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

But Woods and Stricker looked far from comfortable and had a day to forget, crashing to a 7&6 loss to Adam Scott and KJ Choi.

The Unites States made light of the pair's struggles, however, and it was their opponents who crumbled in front of packed galleries when the heat was on.

Having lead in five of the six groups, the Australian-stacked Internationals faltered late in their rounds as their traditional weakness in foursomes came back to haunt them.


Image: Tiger Woods looks on with team-mate Steve Stricker during the Day One Foursome Matches of the Presidents Cup
Photographs: Getty Images
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Debutants Watson and Simpson lead US charge

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With the Internationals trailing 3.5 points to 1.5, the final all-Australian pairing of Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day blew the chance to take the last point against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Baddeley burned the rim on a five-foot putt that would have sealed the win on 17, then duffed his tee-shot into the rough on the last as the nerves set in. Johnson calmly sank a six-footer to steal a half-point for the United States.

Presidents Cup debutants Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson were a model of composure as they hauled in Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa to give the United States a 1-0 lead.

Two down after the first four holes, the Americans quelled early jitters to post an emphatic 4&2 win after Els conceded the match on the par-four 16th following a missed long birdie putt.

"I woke up this morning because I knew I was so nervous," 26-year-old Simpson said. "To be honest I was just thinking about the story of David and Goliath out there."

Watson, his senior by seven years and whose putter ran hot throughout, said he had helped his partner calm down as the pairing made their charge in the middle of the round.

"I told him my job was just to make him loose and comfortable," the easy-going Floridian said. "I told him a couple of jokes ... and he just got into it."


Image: Watson of the US Team with team-mate Webb Simpson
Photographs: Getty Images
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We just couldn't keep up, says Woods

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Woods and Stricker, who became the first pairing to win all four of their matches at the 2009 edition in San Francisco, were the sixth and final group out but trudged back to the clubhouse with four groups still to finish.

Both players struggled on the fairways and greens as Scott and Choi provided a putting masterclass.

"Unfortunately they got off to a quick start and we just couldn't keep up," captain's pick Woods said in a greenside interview after conceding the match on the 12th hole.

"The golf course is so difficult that it's hard to make up shots."

Hunter Mahan and David Toms handed South Korean pair YE Yang and Kim Kyung-tae a lesson in how to play the famed "sandbelt" course as they charged to a 6&5 victory.

Phil Mickelson, paired with Jim Furyk, broke his winless record outside of North America with a crushing 4&3 win over South African Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby.

Bill Haas and Nick Watney mounted a brave fightback from two-down at the 14th to halve their match against Australian Geoff Ogilvy and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel.

Internationals captain Greg Norman was in no doubt his team would rebound from Thursday's disappointment.

"We all understand that it's a game of golf, it's going to happen ... Their heads are held really high," he said.


Image: Tiger Woods looks on as Steve Williams, caddie to Adam Scott (not pictured), shake hands with Steve Stricker
Photographs: Getty Images
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