DUBLIN, Ohio – The Americans survived a late rally Thursday and put the International team in a familiar hole at the Presidents Cup.
Steve Stricker blasted out of a plugged lie in the face of a bunker to 3 feet to save par as he and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth hung on for a 1-up win in the final match on the course at Muirfield Village. That win gave the Americans a 3 1/2 -2 1/2 lead, the fourth straight time they have led after the opening session in the Presidents Cup.
The Americans led in every match early in the session and were ahead in five of them when thunderstorms and a few bursts of rain stopped play for 1 1/2 hours. None of the matches had gone more than 10 holes, though the delay at least gave the International team a sense of starting over.
The break did us really good, South African Louis Oosthuizen said. We came back out, felt refreshed and just played well.
Jason Day and Graham DeLaet rallied from 3 down to Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker, winning on the 18th hole when Day made a 20-foot birdie putt. In the best match of the day, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama battled from 2 down to Bill Haas and Webb Simpson with five holes to play to earn a halve when the 21-year-old Japanese star hit his approach to 2 feet for birdie on the last hole.
Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel gave Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson their first loss. The South Africans, best of friends since junior golf, took their first lead on the 11th hole and didn’t lose another hole until they had a 2-and-1 win.
The Internationals looked as if they might even pull even at the end of the day. Ernie Els made his first birdie of the round at just the right time, a 12-foot putt on the 17th hole that extended their match with Stricker and Spieth.
Spieth, who overcame a nervous start with several big putts, pulled his tee shot into the water on the 18th. Stricker’s approach plugged into the bunker. Brendon De Jonge had a birdie chance from 18 feet, and it looked for a moment like even a par might win the hole and end the match in a halve. Stricker popped it out of the sand and watched it trickle to 3 feet as he lightly pumped his fist. De Jonge’s putt missed and the Americans had the lead.
Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman lost the shortest match of the day, falling 5 and 4, to Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar.
Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson in the anchor match were 3 up through three holes and never looked back. Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, the only all-rookie team for the International side, were 2 down after 10 and never got any closer. The match ended on the 15th hole.
EUROPEAN: In Saint-Nom-La-Breteche, France, Nicolas Colsaerts and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano beat Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren 5 and 3 in the final opening fourballs match to give Continental Europe a 3 1/2 -1 1/2 lead over Britain and Ireland in the Seve Trophy.
Britain and Ireland has won the last six meetings after losing the inaugural event in 2000.
LPGA: In Beijing, American Jessica Korda and South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi shot 9-under 64s to share the first-round lead in the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic.
Choi birdied her last four holes, while Korda matched her career-best round.
Third-ranked Stacy Lewis was tied for second at 68 with South Koreans Hee Young Park and Hee Kyung Seo. Top-ranked Inbee Park of South Korea opened with a 69.