THE United States were in early control of the opening fourballs at the Presidents Cup last night when play was suspended because of a thunderstorm.
With the Americans leading in five of the six matches and all square in the other, play was halted at 2.38pm local time.
The players had been able to briefly continue when the rain first began to fall but were ordered off Muirfield Village Golf Club as a precaution because of the threat of lightning. Scattered showers and more storms were forecast for the rest of the day in the tenth edition of the biennial team competition where the US are seeking to win the trophy for an eighth time.
Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker spectacularly set the tone in the first match out, making five birdies in the first five holes and were one up on Australian Jason Day and Canada’s Graham DeLaet with eight holes to play. The US also led in four of the five remaining matches on a muggy afternoon at Muirfield Village to put the Internationals under intense pressure in the matchplay format they prefer, as they have traditionally struggled in the foursomes.
Internationals captain Nick Price felt he had gained a valuable concession with fourballs featuring in the opening Cup session for the first time since the 1996 edition of the biennial team competition, and had been hoping for a fast start. But it was the Americans who came charging out of the gate after former US President George W. Bush had greeted both teams before they teed off at the par-4 first in front of packed grandstands.
US captain Fred Couples, who was presented with a cake by the International team for his 54th birthday, watched in delight as each of his six fourball combinations took early control.
Bill Haas and Webb Simpson were one up on Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama after nine holes while Steve Stricker and rookie Jordan Spieth were two up on South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge after seven holes.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar were two up on Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman after six holes, while PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson were four up on South Africans Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, also after six. In the third match, South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel fought back from two down to all square with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley after nine holes to give the Internationals some hope of loosening the early US control.
The US have dominated the Presidents Cup by winning seven times in nine editions, most recently with a 19-15 victory at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia two years ago. The only success for the Internationals came in 1998 when the event was first staged in Melbourne. In 2003, the two teams battled to a 17-17 draw in South Africa.
Hunter Mahan & Brandt Snedeker 1 up on Jason Day (Aus) & Graham DeLaet (Can)
(after 10 holes)
Bill Haas & Webb Simpson 1 up on Adam Scott (Aus) & Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) (9)
Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley level with Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) & Charl
Schwartzel (Rsa) (9)
Steve Stricker & Jordan Spieth 2 up on Ernie Els (Rsa) & Brendon De Jonge (Zim) (7)
Matt Kuchar & Tiger Woods 2 up on Angel Cabrera (Arg) & Marc Leishman (Aus) (6)
Jason Dufner & Zach Johnson 4 up on Branden Grace (Rsa) & Richard Sterne (Rsa) (6)