Thursday, January 18, 2018
Golf

Americans lead Presidents Cup

DUBLIN, Ohio — The Americans survived a late rally Thursday and put the International team in a familiar hole at the Presidents Cup.

Steve Stricker blasted out of a plugged lie in the face of a bunker to 3 feet to save par as he and Jordan Spieth hung on for a 1-up win against Erne Els and Brendon de Jonge in the final match on the course at Muirfield Village. That win gave the Americans a 3½-2½ lead, the fourth straight time they have led after the opening session in the Presidents Cup.

Seven of nine times the team that has led after first session has gone on to win the Cup.

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.

Also among the winners were Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, who beat Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman 5 and 4 in the shortest match of the day. Woods got his 21st career Presidents Cup win, passing Jim Furyk for most matches won all time.

The two Americans did a handshake from the 1990s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air after good shots, and they used it a lot.

"That was definitely all me," Kuchar said.

Kuchar was Woods' 19th partner in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Kuchar won the Memorial at Muirfield Village in June; 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."

The Americans led in every match early in the session and were ahead in five when thunderstorms and a few bursts of rain stopped play for 1½ hours. None of the matches had gone more than 10 holes. The delay gave the International team a sense of starting over. "We came back out, felt refreshed and just played well," Louis Oosthuizen said.

Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel gave Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson their first loss as a pair (they were 3-0 in last year's Ryder Cup). The South Africans, best friends since junior golf, took their first lead on the 11th hole and didn't lose another until they had a 2-and-1 win.

In the best match of the day, the Internationals' Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama battled from 2 down to Bill Haas and Webb Simpson with five holes to play to earn a halve when the Matsuyama hit his approach to 2 feet for birdie on the last hole.

Today's format is alternate-shot foursomes.

LPGA: Jessica Korda and Na Yeon Choi shot 9-under 64 to share the lead after the first round of the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing, four strokes ahead of the rest of the field. American Stacy Lewis was in a three-way tie for second. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson was at 1 under.

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