I got back from work at 10:30 PM last night, which means I could sit down and enjoy some golf in the midnight. Here are my reactions to the Americans’ dominant opening foursomes against the International Team in the 2015 Presidents Cup.
The Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea is beautiful
Maybe it was my new 55-inch television, but the sightlines broadcast from Songbo, South Korea were something special.
The futuristic skyline provided a spectacular backdrop to a tournament that is trying to break the mold in the modern age of golf. Factor in the lush fairways and collection of water hazards, and you have a nice mix of tradition and progress. The course proved to be a challenge as well. The greens were gettable but not without punishment Thursday.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 8, 2015
Phil Mickelson was a worthy captain’s pick
Even if he doesn’t win another point, Lefty rewarded his teammates’ and captain Jay Haas’s faith.
Paired with Zach Johnson, Mickelson delivered a decisive point to give the Americans a 4-1 advantage. He did it against Jason Day, too. Down one on the 17th hole, Day extended the match in typical fashion by draining a long birdie putt on a par-three. Mickelson, with a chance to answer, lipped out hard. He looked bewildered.
A contest he firmly had in his grasp—a Day miss would have sealed the win for the Americans—was suddenly slipping away. But Mickelson pounded his drive off the 18th tee, a shot made more important after Steven Bowditch hit a long iron to 15 feet on the par-five. Johnson, much closer to the green than the pair of Aussies, could answer. And he did. His ball landed inside Bowditch’s and the putt was conceded. Johnson’s approach would have qualified as the shot of the day had Mickelson not already earned that honor.
On the par-three 13th, he holed out from a greenside bunker gave the veteran duo a boost of momentum for the back nine. Johnson clearly fed off his partner as players around Phil usually do. Their celebration—a firm, serious handshake—needs work, though.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 8, 2015
The International Team played nervously
Aside from the Louis Oosthuizen-Branden Grace pairing that outclassed the odd couple of Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, there were few bright spots for the Internationals. Part of it is the nature of the tournament. The International Team members have no real ties to each other beyond a common opponent.
It’s not always easy to build chemistry on the spot. The other detriment to the home team was nerves. Bowditch, in his debut, smoked a drive into the water on 11 to cost himself a crucial hole. Fellow rookie Danny Lee didn’t fare much better. After flubbing a flop shot earlier in a match with Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, Lee’s third shot at the 11th, following Marc Leishman’s wet drive, landed in the bank of the water hazard.
It was a missed opportunity. Johnson’s tee shot had also splashed, but Spieth was able to safely layup with the pair’s third. The Americans’ best pairing escaped with a point on the hole despite poor play.
Lee sealed his fate on the par-five 15th when he pitched his pair’s fourth shot to the back of the green, while Spieth was staring down a birdie putt. The match ended and the 25-year-old was left to dwell on a disappointing beginning to what was an emotional return to his birth country.
This thing could be over before the weekend hits
When Bubba Watson and JB Holmes took the first point handily over Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott—a 3&2 victory—the whole day shifted in favor of the Americans. Matsuyama and Scott were thought to be the International Team’s strongest pairing and neither of the two could hit a putt to save their lives.
Meanwhile, Holmes and Watson bludgeoned the fairways as you would have expected. The Americans flexed, the Internationals withered. Past history suggested this outcome was likely, but the 2015 season gave the underdogs hope.
That dissipated quickly Thursday in Korea. Given the form of their opponents, the Americans look well on their way to win number nine in this competition. While it’s true the Internationals played about as poorly as they could have, the Americans, if we’re being honest, didn’t play much better. And yet they’re three-up as we move along.
I'm not saying the Presidents Cup is over, but GW just called a press conference pic.twitter.com/u6X3jn1ZzL
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) October 8, 2015