September 26, 2007

A Nearly Perfect Beginning

Could it be better? The United States team took 5 1/2 of a possible 6 points on day one of The Presidents Cup.

Perfect partner golf gave Woods and Howell a 3 and 1 win on day one.

Perfect partner golf gave Woods and Howell a 3 and 1 win on day one.

After a morning deluge that delayed the center face-off of the Presidents Cup at the Royal Montreal Golf Club for a half an hour, the United States pulled the sweater over the eyes of the International team and pummeled them at center ice in the opening day foursomes winning five and a half of a possible six points. It was the best single day either side has enjoyed in team play since the Internationals swept the U.S. 6-0 in four-ball in 2003. "We've seen this board at the last two Ryder Cups," Tiger Woods deadpanned afterwards. "Oh, that was the European side."

The slapshot seems to translate nicely into the golf swing, which goes a long way in explaining Canada's obsession with both games. Despite the dismal early weather and a dire forecast for the remainder of the day, a massive crowd turned out for the opening round of the matches. But then it's hard to dissuade a people whose money is called a Loonie and who live in places named Yellowknife.

The marquee match of the day, Vijay Singh and Canada's favorite son Mike Weir versus the Americans Woody Austin and Phil Mickelson (or, as Singh called him the day before, "Phil Who?") was also the best match of the day. Only six holes were halved. Singh and Weir seemed completely in control until Austin made a 17-foot birdie putt on the 12th and knocked it close on the 13th and 14th to win three straight holes and pull the Americans even. Singh then holed a shot from the left greenside bunker to retake the lead on the 15th. After a crucial save by Austin at the 16th, Mickelson made a 15-footer at the 17th to square the match again. Austin missed the 18th green in the left bunker but Singh followed by missing it in the right rough. Faced with a touchy explosion, Mickelson left Austin some 12 feet and the 43-year-old rookie converted again.

At the direction of U.S. Captain Jack Nicklaus, Singh's three and a half footer was conceded for the halve. "Captain Nicklaus said for us to do it," said Mickelson afterward. "Now, if it was me, I don't know. Vijay wasn't going to miss that putt. It was the right thing to do."

Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan posted the day's first point with a steady 3 and 2 victory over Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy. In the third match, Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman were all square with one hole to play but Sabbatini drove it in the water, handing Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson a 1 up victory. David Toms and Jim Furyk were 3 up with five to play and were nearly halved by Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera but for Els gunning a five-footer through the break and past the hole on the 18th to lose the match 1 down. Lucas Glover and Scott Verplank came to the home hole 1 up over Stuart Appleby and Retief Goosen but Appleby pulled his approach into an unplayable lie and the Americans won that one, as well, 2 up.

In the final match, Charles Howell III and Woods took a lead on the sixth hole and never relinquished it with Woods hitting it close on the 17th to close out the match 3 and 1.