As I said earlier today, I hoped the Internationals would turn the momentum to their favor after the weather delay, and indeed, that’s exactly what happened. At the much-needed timeout for the International team, they were down to the seemingly indomitable Americans in five matches and all square in one of them. It wasn’t looking good.
In fact, it seemed fathomable that the Presidents Cup would be clinched by the U.S. before Sunday Singles rolled around. Not so fast! I watched the first two matches finish on 18, and boy, the atmosphere was electric and you could feel the energy of the International team, which, no doubt, has a ton of heart.
Before we get into specifics, first, let’s talk about Davis Love III’s squirrel again — which obviously makes the top story in this evening’s hit list:
#1) Davis Love and his squirrel Sammy: As I mentioned earlier today, Love was carrying around a baby squirrel all day, which was either injured or had fallen out of its nest in a tree. He saw it on the ground on the second hole and saved it.
“It was going to get run over, so I picked it up,” said Love in the post-Thursday four-balls captains’ presser.
The assistant captain didn’t check whether the squirrel was a girl or guy, so Nicki Stricker decided to name it, “Sammy,” which seemed appropriate for the new American mascot.
“It was good luck until the break at least,” said Love when asked why he was carrying around a squirrel. “My dad always picked up sticks for good luck, and he told me I had to keep it as long as we were winning holes.”
“And I was watching matches; Fred told me to stay with Jordan. I saw so many birdies. It really was unbelievable. Even when our guys would hit it close, like 12, Brendan chipped it in and one of them would have to make it. Brendan played unbelievable. Tiger and Kuch, I got to watch them a lot; they were behind. I saw a lot of good golf, and it was a lot of fun.”
Where is Sammy now? In a box. It sounded like Davis was going to make sure it got to the Columbus zoo, but it was a hectic scene, so I didn’t get a clear answer and sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s joking or serious.
“Fred (Couples) told me to bring it to the press conference but Sammy has gotten too much publicity already,” said Love, smiling.
Indeed. I’m pretty sure it’s making SportsCenter tonight, particularly since Lindsey Vonn decided to mess with her boyfriend, Tiger Woods, and when he wasn’t paying attention, she put Sammy on his neck/shoulder and she definitely caught him off-guard. His reaction was priceless. It screamed, “OMG! WTF?!?”
According to Love, Tiger likes Sammy, but Lindsey *loves* it. It’s unclear whether Sammy we’ll see Sammy the next three days.
#2) Jason Day and Graham DeLaet beating Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker 1 up: After the break, I eventually walked back out to catch one of the matches. Originally, I was going to pick up the group I watched earlier in the afternoon: Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth vs. Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge, but it sounded like the Internationals were making a run in Match 1, so I caught up with Day/DeLaet vs. Mahan/Snedeker on the 16th. The Americans were dominating early and were 3 up through 6 and the loss had to hurt since aside from the first hole that DeLaet birdied, Mahan and Snedeker led nearly the entire way.
Then, the delay happened. Day ate lunch some food and played a Daytona Racing game with his caddie Col Swatton. (Jason really likes video games.) He went back out and made birdie right away on no. 11 to halve the hole.
DeLaet, one of the best ballstrikers on Tour, put on a clinic on the back nine — the duo was a combined five-under. The Canadian knocked it to gimme distance on the par-3 16th to go 1 up in the match for the first time since the first hole. DeLaet hit another great approach shot into no. 17, but missed the 10-footer for birdie, while Snedeker made his nine-footer to square the match as they headed into 18.
Mahan and Snedeker both hit awful approach shots and missed the green. DeLaet and Day safely found the green, with Day leaving himself with a 20-footer.
I happened walk the last few holes with Ellie Day and Ruby DeLaet. We were about 30-40 yards in front of the green (in other words, we sort of stayed back to watch from afar). Needless to say, the ladies were nervous.
“That putt on the left might be a birdie putt,” said Ruby.
“(Jason’s) going to make it,” said Ruby. “He’s due.”
Added Ellie: “Yeah, he is — they haven’t made a putt all day, except for Graham’s birdie on the first hole.”
Jason, who has an affinity for stepping up for big moments, rolled it in dead center. Clutch.
Ellie and Ruby predictably went nuts, celebrating, screaming and hugging. My ears are still ringing.
“I don’t know what just happened, but it was incredible” said Ellie. “I’m shaking.”
Oh, have I mentioned that Ellie is a native Ohioan and Muirfield Village is Jason’s home course? You probably knew that already. Jason was very familiar with that exact putt.
“Out of all of them, I can’t remember how many times I’ve had that putt — a lot,” Day said when asked. “It was good to sit there and remember how much it does break, even still with Col (his caddie) reading the putts for me. We just read a good line and I hit the putt and it was on a perfect line. It was at least two- to two-and-a-half feet of break…
“To have the opportunity to win the match, I know that like Graham said before, myself and Graham, we both played great golf, and we just kept on saying to ourselves, give ourselves the opportunities on the greens and be patient and things will happen.
“After the rain delay, we came out and played great golf on the back nine, and I just knew that if I could give myself a putt on the 18th green, that I have played here enough to know where the breaks are.”
Added DeLaet: “Captain Price just told us (the team) to stay patient.”
DeLaet also has a new favorite golfer: “Jason Day,” he said, grinning ear-to-ear and patting his partner on the back, in a TV interview with Golf Channel.
The duo are playing together again in Friday Foursomes in the first match out against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
#3) The second match of the day also went all the way to 18. The International pair of Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama were playing catch up to Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, who led for the majority of the match. Heading into the 18th, Haas and Simpson were 1-up.
The 21-year-old Matsuyama stepped up to the plate and hit one of the best shots of his life, sticking it to a foot for the conceded birdie. (If you watched the telecast, apparently you saw my reaction and heard me saying, “Wow,” to the Days. It could have been worse…)
“I knew Adam was going to follow me, and I aimed at the pin and if I missed, I knew he would hold me up,” said the Presidents Cup rookie through a translator in the team presser.
Scott, who was sitting on the other side of the table, nodded in agreement.
The Australian is the unofficial leader of the Internationals and Captain Nick Price asked him to take Matsuyama under his wing and he obviously agreed and it’s worked out quite well.
4.) The International turnaround after the delay to earn 2.5 points, just trailing the Americans by one point: You could literally feel the momentum and atmosphere switch at Muirfield Village. We poke a little bit of fun at the Presidents Cup because it’s an fabricated exhibition that the Americans have dominated since the inaugural matches in 1994, but let’s just say it’s like the Ryder Cup for the Internationals.
“I think what we showed today is that there’s plenty of heart on this team,” said Scott. “I don’t think spirits were low when we sat in the team room in the break, but for everyone to go out and rally, some guys to pull out wins, other guys halves, and even the matches we lost came closer all of a sudden.
“So there’s plenty of heart on the team and I think we should take a lot out of that. We were in ordinary shape for a while, and 3 1/2 to 2 1/2 isn’t a big deal, if we win the session tomorrow, so if we are neck and neck, that should be our goal to win the session tomorrow.”
But what about their notoriously awful record in foursomes?
“Well, there’s no secret, it’s there,” said Scott when asked about their dreadful 25.5 to 7.5 in the last four editions of the Presidents Cup. “It’s just about playing some good golf. I think everyone’s feeling pretty confident after this afternoon the way they played the last ten, 12 holes, whatever we had left out there. Take some of that confidence into tomorrow. I know I’m happy with my partner. I look forward to it.
“Like I said, if we can win the session tomorrow, then it’s back to level and we might have an advantage and get the momentum going our way.”
#5) Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel for the win: The South African pair showed up to the first tee wearing ridiculous wigs, mocking their not-so-great haircuts from earlier in the week. Louis’ wife was at a store and spotted the wigs.
“My wife phoned me this morning, saying she’s in one of the shops and there’s two wigs there, should we have a go at it,” explained Oosthuizen. “I said, ‘Yeah, bring it.’
“Everyone knows about the funny haircut we had and the experience we had, so I thought it would be a good thing to show everyone that we actually love to wear some wigs.”
When the horn blew, Louis and Charl were all square with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who went 3-0 together at the Ryder Cup last fall. After the break, the South Africans stepped up their games and dominated the back nine, doing a good job of ham-and-egging it.
“I just figure, we were 9-under combined, so we played really good golf,” said Schwartzel after closing out the formerly indomitable American duo. “I felt like my good shots were really very good today.
“I putted well, but then I also did some poor shots and that’s where Louis came in and we really combined really well. That’s what you sort of need to do in this format, and that’s where the two of us feel comfortable with each other. You don’t get down on yourself with a bad shot, because you know those sort of things happen, where if you don’t know the other guy well, you might feel a little bit bad. I think that’s where we bond really well.”
Added Oosthuizen: The point was huge for us. Me and Charl were really pumped. We wanted to get that win. We knew it would get us going, the week, and we were really focused, especially that back nine.”
Meanwhile, Phil played poorly and Keegan couldn’t buy a putt after the delay.
“We were got off to a good start,” said Mickelson. ”We were rolling there through seven holes. We were 5under and playing well, and when they birdied 8 and 9 to get it back to even after the rain, I ended up having a bad practice session before I went out.
“I played terribly the back nine and left Keegan alone on a lot of holes, and that’s tough to do when you’ve got to make birdies, and he made a number of birdies, a number of putts to keep us in it and then we just lost it there in the end.”
Bonus note: It was Captain Couples’ birthday. Happy birthday, Freddie!
Here are the results after Day 1:
Match 1 Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International) defeated Hunter Mahan/Brandt Snedeker (U.S.), 1-up
Match 2 Bill Haas/Webb Simpson (U.S.) halved with Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International)
Match 3 Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (Intl.) defeated Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (U.S.), 2 and 1
Match 4 Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) defeated Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International), 1-up
Match 5 Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods (U.S.) defeated Angel Cabrera/Marc Leishman (International), 5 and 4
Match 6 Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner (U.S.) defeated Branden Grace/Richard Sterne(International), 5 and 3
Note: Presidents Cup rookies (11) are in bold
The captains of each team sit across from each other like in a game of “Battleship” (remember that game??) as they decide the pairings. Basically, one captain announces one duo and then the other captain(s) discuss their options and declare their choice.
FOURSOMES MATCHES PAIRINGS
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2013
Match 7 Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (U.S.) vs. Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International)
Match 8 Bill Haas/Hunter Mahan (U.S.) vs. Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International)
Match 9 Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Branden Grace/Richard Sterne (International)
Match 10 Webb Simpson/Brandt Snedeker (U.S.) vs. Angel Cabrera/Marc Leishman (International)
Match 11 Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods (U.S.) vs. Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (International)
Match 12 Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner (U.S.) vs. Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International)
Note: Presidents Cup rookies (11) are in bold
BELOW NOTES COURTESY OF THE PGA TOUR
Mickelson/Bradley will try to rebound from their first match-play loss as a team. They were 3-0 in the 2012 Ryder Cup and lost yesterday in round one.
Graham DeLaet recorded the first point by a Canadian in The Presidents Cup since Mike Weir halved his singles match with Justin Leonard in 2009.
In the 2011 Presidents Cup, Haas/Mahan defeated Jason Day/Aaron Baddeley in four-ball, 2 and 1.
In round one, Ernie Els tied Robert Allenby for the most matches lost (17) in The Presidents Cup history. On the other side, Els has the fourth most wins (17) in Presidents Cup history.
The Grace/Sterne pairing remains the only one featuring two Presidents Cup rookies.
Stricker, who is the oldest player in the field, remains paired with Jordan Spieth, who is the youngest player in the field.
Simpson/Snedeker will be paired for the first time in either The Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
Schwartzel has not met up with Woods or Kuchar in The Presidents Cup. Oosthuizen is a Presidents Cup rookie.
This week is the first time Kuchar/Woods have been paired together in either The Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
Johnson/Dufner are 3-1 in match-play as teammates (1-0 Presidents Cup and 2-1/Ryder Cup).