Dublin: The US needed a par on the final hole to retain the overall lead over the Internationals on the first day of the Presidents Cup after almost throwing away a commanding advantage following a lengthy weather delay.
Steve Stricker calmly got up and down from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker to par the 18th, sinking a three-footer to secure the decisive point that allowed the Americans to finish the opening fourballs leading by 3-1/2 points to 2-1/2.
At one point, the Americans led in all six encounters at rain-softened Muirfield Village Golf Club, where birdies were plentiful but South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel inspired a stirring fightback by the Internationals.
Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, who briefly donned garish wigs on the first tee, came from two down after seven holes to beat British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a contest of high quality involving four former Major winners.
Bradley put the Americans two up by sinking a six-foot eagle putt at the par-five seventh but the South Africans won the next two holes with birdies, Oosthuizen draining a 16-footer at the eighth and Schwartzel tapping in a two-footer at the ninth.
Oosthuizen then put the Internationals one up by knocking in a three-foot birdie putt at the par-five 11th, and his good friend Schwartzel sealed victory with a birdie at the 17th.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar earned the first point of the day for the US, hammering Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman in a match they led from the opening hole.
Zach Johnson and PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner never trailed before beating South Africans Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, while Stricker and Jordan Spieth ended a birdie fest against South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge with a hard-fought 1-up win.
However, the Internationals did well to salvage 1-1/2 more points from two of the earlier matches out.
Australian Jason Day sank a 22-foot birdie putt at the last to seal a 1-up win in tandem with Canada’s Graham DeLaet over Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker, after they had been three down after six holes.
Adam Scott Hideki Matsuyama, who never led and trailed by two with four holes to play, fought back to square their match against Bill Haas and Webb Simpson.