GOLFERS UP BY 2

Tempo - - Sports -

JERSEY CITY, United States

(AFP) – The United States lived up to their top billing, seiz­ing a two­point lead over a bat­tling In­ter­na­tional team on the open­ing day of the Pres­i­dents Cup match play golf show­down.

The Amer­i­cans, win­ners of nine of the prior 11 edi­tions of the Cup, with one draw and just one In­ter­na­tional vic­tory back in 1998, wasted no time in as­sert­ing them­selves at Lib­erty Na­tional Golf Club.

They won the first three matches be­fore South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Bran­den Grace notched the lone In­ter­na­tional win of the day.

Aus­tralians Ja­son Day and Marc Leish­man were 3-down early but bat­tled back to stand 1-up through 16.

But they ended up shar­ing a point with Kevin Kis­ner and Phil Mick­el­son in the fi­nal match of the day, in which Mick­el­son missed a seven-foot putt at the 18th that could have given the Amer­i­cans yet an­other win.

It’s the sixth straight time that the In­ter­na­tion­als have lost the open­ing ses­sion.

Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas got the ball rolling for the hosts on a blus­tery day, dom­i­nat­ing Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama and South African Charl Schwartzel 6 & 4.

Jor­dan Spi­eth and Pa­trick Reed never trailed in their 5 & 4 win over In­ter­na­tional rook­ies Kim Si-Woo of South Korea and Emil­iano Grillo of Ar­gentina.

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar ral­lied on the back nine for a 1-up win over Aussie Adam Scott and Venezuela’s Jhonat­tan Ve­gas be­fore Oosthuizen and Grace topped Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger 3 & 1.

It was an­other solid show­ing for Oosthuizen and Grace, who won all four of their matches to­gether two years ago, when the In­ter­na­tion­als fell by a point in South Korea.

In­ter­na­tional cap­tain Nick Price was hop­ing a faster start this year would put his team on the way to an up­set win over the pow­er­ful US squad.

In­stead they face an­other tough climb go­ing into Fri­day’s five four­ball matches.

In all, 30 points will be on of­fer this week, with 15.5 needed to claim the Cup.

“Ob­vi­ously the day was a bru­tal day to play golf,’’ Price said of the wind whip­ping off the Hud­son River.

“Club se­lec­tion was so dif­fi­cult, and we got be­hind the 8-ball pretty early with a few of our guys, a few of our teams be­ing 2-down, 3-down at the turn.

“But the guys ral­lied back great. I thought the back nine, one stage, it maybe even looked like we may get two or three, but we wound up with just 1 1/2.

“Even though we’re two points be­hind, it was one of our strong­est starts in four­somes on Thurs­day. So the team is not dis­cour­aged at all.’’

JOR­DAN Spi­eth

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