The Internationals ended the day 4-1 up at Royal Melbourne – the largest lead they have ever had at the end of day one, beating the 3½-1½ lead they had in 1998, the only time they have won the cup, which was also in Melbourne.
Woods, captaining the United States for the first time, did his best to lead by example as he and Justin Thomas delivered America’s only victory, beating Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann 4 & 3.
Woods made six birdies – three on the opening five holes – with the International pair never ahead.
“Tiger was working so well between the two of us today. He played great,” said Thomas.
“I mean, I just didn’t really take advantage of the opportunities, but that’s what you have a partner for.
“It was awesome. It’s nice knowing when I step up on a par three or a par four that I feel free just because I know he’s playing well, and he did.”
Every other match went the Internationals’ way though.
Sungjae Im and Adam Hadwin defeated Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 1 up; Byeong Hun An and Adam Scott beat Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau 2 & 1; Hideki Matsuyama and CT Pan beat Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson 1 up; and Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen defeated Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson 4 & 3.
American struggles could now result in Woods playing more matches than expected over the weekend and he has already put himself in the line-up for Friday’s foursomes alongside Thomas, with the pair due to face Hun An and Matsuyama.