Cup holders US end foursomes with narrow lead
New York: Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim led the way as Presidents Cup holders the United States fended off a bright start by the Internationals to lead by 3-½ points to 2-½ after Thursday`s opening foursomes.
At one point, the Americans trailed in four of the six alternate-shot encounters before gathering momentum over the closing stretch at Harding Park Golf Course.
The Internationals have generally struggled in the foursomes playing format and the home team, seeking their sixth victory in the Cup`s eighth edition, ended the day in control.
However, a two-point advantage appeared likely for the US until Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard lost the final two holes of their match against South African Retief Goosen and South Korean Yang Yong-eun to finish all square.
Mickelson and rookie Kim, one down to Canadian Mike Weir and South African Tim Clark after 12 holes in the top match, rallied in spectacular fashion with four successive birdies to draw first blood with a 3&2 win.
A superb wedge approach by Kim to three feet at the par-four 13th sparked the late surge by the Americans in mainly overcast and cool conditions at Harding Park.
"We just needed one thing to go our way," Mickelson said in a greenside interview. "We needed something to ignite us and that wedge shot by Anthony to three feet sure did the trick."
The biggest galleries watched the fifth match where world number one Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker crushed Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa 6&4.
The American duo charged three up with four birdies in the first six holes and never relinquished their grip before sealing victory at the par-three 14th where Woods rolled in a 15-footer for birdie.
"We played well together," a smiling Stricker said. "He (Woods) got it in there and I was able to make some putts, and vice versa. It was a lot of fun."
Woods paid tribute to his playing partner, one of the best putters on the PGA Tour.
"Stricks is just a good dude to play with and we never gave these guys a chance to get into the match," the 14-times major winner said after improving his foursomes record to 8-2-1.
The Internationals registered their first point when Australian Adam Scott and South African Ernie Els beat Hunter Mahan and Sean O`Hair 2&1 in a match where they never trailed.
"We need some points and it was good to get one," said Scott, a controversial wildcard selection by Internationals captain Greg Norman after struggling for form this season.
"This format`s never easy, but we came up with some good stuff right at the end. Personally it feels good."
Fijian Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby of Australia birdied the last two holes to edge Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink one up before Kenny Perry and Zach Johnson beat Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Colombian Camilo Villegas two up.
In a wildly fluctuating bottom match, Furyk and Leonard finished all square with Goosen and Yang after Leonard missed a birdie putt from inside three feet on the 18th green.
Leonard initially thought Goosen had conceded the putt and was shocked when his attempt caught the right lip and spun away.
"I just hit a bad putt," Leonard said after he and Furyk came from three down after five holes to go two up after 16.
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