Presidents Cup: Team USA secure opening day advantage over International team

Team USA opened up a two-point lead over the International team following the opening day’s foursomes at the Presidents Cup in New Jersey.

The defending champions, following their thrilling victory in 2015 in Incheon, enjoyed a strong start over the front nine holes in all five foursomes as the visitors struggled early doors in the blustery conditions at Liberty National Golf Course before eventually opening up a three-and-a-half to one-and-a-half lead.

Steve Stricker’s side, who have won nine of 11 previous editions, were heavy favourites to defend their title and started in ominous fashion at Liberty National Golf Course against an International side which included four rookies.

Rickie Fowler and last week’s FedEx Cup playoff champion Justin Thomas paired up to secure a convincing 6&4 victory over Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel in the opening encounter.

The American pairing picked up five gains over the front nine after losing the second hole to secure a 4up margin at the turn before maintaining their dominance, despite an initial rally by their opponents at the 10th, to claim victory at the par-four 14th green.

The second point of the day also went to the hosts as Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, both Texas-born, resumed their successful Ryder Cup pairing with aplomb to secure a straightforward 5&4 success over Emiliano Grillo and Si Woo Kim.

Reed and Spieth, a proven matchplay partnership, won five of the opening nine holes to take command against the rookie pairing of Grillo and Players Championship winner Kim.

The lead was narrowed to 2up when the International team won the 10th but three gains over the following four holes completed another one-sided match.

Matt Kuchar and world No 1 Dustin Johnson were forced to the 18th hole but prevailed 1up against determined opposition from Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Scott.

Johnson produced a timely moment of brilliance from the bunker at the par-three seventh to help the USA side to a gain to square the match up only to fall behind once again at the ninth following a birdie four by the international pairing.

However, USA claimed gains at the par-three 10th and par-three 16th to turn the match in their favour and hold their nerve down the final two holes.

Nick Price’s International team were indebted to the South African pairing of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen to claim their first point against the pairing of US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Grace and Oosthuizen, who became the first team to go 4-0 in Presidents Cup two years ago in South Korea, continued their winning ways with a 3&1 triumph thanks in part to gains at the 13th, 15th and 17th.

The final foursomes encounter between Phil Mickelson and rookie Kevin Kisner against Australian duo Marc Leishman and Jason Day was closely contested with the International pairing seemingly set to secure a second point for Price’s team when they moved 1up through 16 holes.

However, Team USA squared the match at the 17th and looked set to steal the spoils on the 18th green only for five-time major winner Mickelson to miss a great birdie opportunity.

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