Global stars seek fast start at Presidents Cup
COLUMBUS - A fast start in Thursday's opening matches of the Presidents Cup will be crucial for the Internationals as they try to beat the Americans for the first time since 1998.
And the Internationals will turn to Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Canada's Graham DeLaet to provide an early spark after day one four-ball pairings were drawn on Wednesday.
Zimbabwean Nick Price's 12-man global squad will be helped by having six four-ball matches on day one rather than the alternate shot foursomes, the first time since 1996 they have been played in that order in a format switch made at Price's request.
"It was very important to change from the hardest format, the alternate-shot foursomes, to the better ball," Price said. "That was a positive move I think. Certainly for us it was."
The Americans lead the all-time rivalry 7-1-1 entering the matchup at Muirfield Village, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course that has also hosted the Ryder Cup and women's Solheim Cup matches.
Day and DeLaet will face the US duo of Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker in match one with Americans Bill Haas and Webb Simpson facing Scott and Maruyama in match two.
"Jason and Graham played really well together and those two guys are keen to get going," Price said. "It was an obvious choice who we were going to put out first."
Then comes reigning Masters champion Scott and 21-year-old Japanese star Matsuyama, a pairing that excites the Aussie star despite some language barriers.
"Golf is the international language. Everyone understands that," Scott said. "He's playing great. I'm sure he will be a little bit nervous but when he hits that first ball down the middle he'll be fine."
Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley will face South African major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen while 20-year-old US prodigy Jordan Spieth and veteran Steve Stricker will meet South African four-time major winner Ernie Els and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge.
"Oosthuizen has not been healthy but apparently he's 100 percent and his game looks pretty sharp, so the fact he's hungry is going to be tough," Mickelson said. "It's going to be a tough match. But Keegan and I are playing well. We are ready for it and we seem to bring out the best in each other."
World number one Tiger Woods joins Matt Kuchar for the US team against Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Aussie Marc Leishman while South African's Richard Sterne and Branden Grace meet Zach Johnson and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner.
"You want to get off to a good start," US captain Fred Couples said. "If you play your way out of it, you have got to fight back hard with some great play. We've had great success the first day in several of these. But we have flipped the alternate shot and best-ball."
The Internationals have lost to the US team four times in a row since a dramatic draw at South Africa in 2003. They have trailed after the first day the past three times and have not led after a session since the 2005 four-balls on day two.
"The start is really important and because of the dynamics of our team and where they all come from, it's very difficult to put a great foursomes pairing together right from the get-go," Price said. "This is new ground. I'm happy it's better-ball."
While US players have noted the atmosphere is more relaxed than at a Ryder Cup against a European side, Mickelson finds no lack of desire in his 19th consecutive US team event.
"It might be a little bit more subdued," he said. "But it's pretty intense."
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