It was a historic day for the International Team after the opening battle at this year’s Presidents Cup.
Its 4-1 lead is the largest it has ever held after the opening session. The previous best was its 3½- 1½ advantage in 1998. That was the only time the Internationals won the Cup and that also was at Royal Melbourne.
It’s also just the fourth time the International Team has won the opening session so no wonder then that Captain Ernie Els was in buoyant mood after a thrilling opening day’s play from his side.
“A little different from previous Presidents Cups,” he smiled. “It’s a great start against an unbelievable team. The golf course is very tough. The golf was excellent. A lot of birdies going out. There were chances for the guys, but then I was really proud of my team making those big putts on 17 and finishing with some very tight pins.”
As for why his International side shone so brightly on day one?
“Preparation, it’s the old cliche, always be prepared and have a good plan, and just try to instil that in the team for now,” Els said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but this is an unbelievable start. We haven’t had a start like this for many years. We’ll celebrate this little session victory and then we’ve got a couple more to go.”
It wasn’t the greatest of days for Els’ opposite number, Tiger Woods although the USA skipper, alongside playing partner Justin Thomas, did manage to put the opening point on the board for his side in this year’s competition.
The playing-Captain led by example, giving his team the early lead with birdies on three of the first five holes. That included a tap-in on No. 1 and a chip-in on the par-3 fifth hole. Niemann recovered from his early struggles to win Nos. 6 and 7, but the Internationals lost the ninth hole to fall 2 down at the turn. They never got any closer.
This was Woods’ first win in five Four-Balls matches at Royal Melbourne (1-4). Woods made six birdies, including on the last two holes.
“Tiger was working so well between the two of us today. He played great,” Thomas said. “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 3 or a par 4 that I feel free just because I know he’s playing well, and he did.”
But that’s where the scoring ended for Team USA with the Internationals sweeping the remaining four matches with a 4&3 victory for Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen over Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson the standout performance on a superb opening day for the Internationals.
“We were ready on Tuesday already to go,” said Oosthuizen. “Ernie and the captains has done such a great job getting all of us really invested in this, and we knew we had some good success on this golf course. So we were ready early this week, and we have a game plan. We stick with it. No one is trying anyone silly, and my man just played unbelievable golf. It was awesome to watch today.
“Starting good around this golf course is key. Gary and DJ didn’t start well. When we got 4-up through five, it was always going to be tough for them to get it back, and whenever we were in trouble, we found a way to make pars. Abe kept us going with rolling beautiful putts. I think we executed the plan pretty good.”
Full scoring HERE