JERSEY CITY—Only five of the Presidents Cup's 30 points were awarded on Day 1 at Liberty National. But in the words of Yogi Berra, it's getting late early for the Internationals.
Save for South African supergroup Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen—the duo won their fifth consecutive match together—the global squad was swept away in the Hudson on Thursday. Two matches failed to get past the 14th hole, with Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar defeating Adam Scott and Jhnottan Vegas on the 18th. Jason Day and Marc Leishman managed to halve their match against Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner only thanks to a missed six-footer from Phill at the last. The Internationals are down just two on the board, but if history is any indicator, the prospects are ominous: the Americans are undefeated when leading after the first session.
For Nick Price's club to right the ship, they desperately need a better performance from Hideki Matsuyama. The Japanese star is the top-ranked player on the International side, but hasn't been playing like it as of late, stumbling in the final two legs of the FedEx Cup. Those woes continued in Jersey City, as he and Charl Schwartzel were disposed of 6&4 by Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas in the day's first match. Matsuyama will get a chance to turn the tide by leading off the Internationals again on Day 2, teaming this time with Adam Hadwin as the pair faces the dynamic duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Speaking of Fowler and Thomas, the young guns are pitted against Grace and Oosthuizen, which will serve as Friday's main event. Coming off a career year, Thomas had some rookie nerves in the opening holes, yet was carried by Fowler's reserved demeanor before turning it on. On the other side of the spectrum, Grace and Oosthuizen looked to be in cruise control against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. Look for this one to produce some fireworks.
The final three groups will feature:
-- A run-back of Mickelson/Kisner and Day/Leishman.
-- American rookies Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman, both who sat the bench on Thursday, battling Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel.
-- A nuclear missile exercise via Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, as they take on Adam Scott and Jhonny Vegas.
The first pairing tees off at 11:35 AM on Friday. The United States has won the last six Presidents Cups.