INCHEON, South Korea – U.S. captain Jay Haas looks like he is going for the early knockout in this 11th edition of the Presidents Cup, front-loading his Friday four-ball lineup that, frankly, doesn’t appear to have any weaknesses.
Getting the Americans to admit that this is their strategy is only slightly less difficult than the International team’s task of winning a point, but Nick Price, the International skipper, wasn’t fooled.
“He’s going for the kill,” Price said. “I’d do the same thing if I were in his position.”
But the International team seldom has been in the position the U.S. finds itself after the first day at Jack Nicklaus GC. By winning four of the five foursomes matches on Thursday, the U.S. improved its record in the opening session to 8-3. Little wonder that the Americans lead the series 8-1-1.
"He’s put the pressure on and we have to respond.”
The U.S. had all the momentum on Thursday, and they appear intent on keeping it with the formidable pairing of world No. 1 Jordan Spieth and No. 8 Dustin Johnson going out first in four-ball competition at 9:35 a.m. (local) against Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace of South Africa, the only International winners in foursomes. Spieth and Johnson won their opener 4 and 3, and the team that follows them onto the course Friday, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, won even more easily, 5 and 4.
Veterans Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson go next, and then bombers Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes. Rookie Chris Kirk teams with Bill Haas in the final group.
Spieth and Johnson were the anchor team on Thursday. Why the move up to the leadoff spot?
“Kind of a gut feeling I guess,” Haas said, shrugging his shoulders. “The guys, we talked about it. I know we've gone with Bubba [Watson] and J.B. [Holmes out first on Thursday], and Bubba has gone out first a lot, and he likes that spot. But he said it does not matter to him. You know, when you say the strength, I think we have a strong team. I think both teams are very, very strong.
“But, yeah, No. 1 in the world … he went last today. We're giving him a morning and afternoon time, I guess. All the guys are used to playing in the last groups or they wouldn't be here. I didn't want him sitting around all day.”
Haas makes it sound so arbitrary. Maybe it was. Added assistant Davis Love III, "We could have put just about any team out first."
But Price saw the advantage in the U.S. sending its two toughest teams out early.
“They want to keep the momentum and keep us from getting any, and that is the way I would go if I were Jay,” Price said. “We know it’s tough. We can’t have another 4-1 day [Friday]. We can’t let this get away from us. He’s put the pressure on and we have to respond.”