CHARLOTTE | It could have been a massacre from day one. Woo Kim and Cameron Davis saved face for the international team on Thursday as the Presidents Cup curtain-raiser in North Carolina. A suffocating day dominated by the Americans already leading 4 to 1.
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For a good part of the afternoon at the four corners of the prestigious Quail Hollow golf club, the representatives of the star-spangled banner led the five games on the schedule. Those from the “rest of the world” struggled to get on the board.
They worked hard without however succeeding in stopping the American machine led by the duo composed of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. These destroyed veterans Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama.
En route to what could have been the sixth sweep in a session in the competition’s history dating back to 1994, a few American duos stumbled and opened the door for a return of the internationals. But it was short-lived.
Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa overcame Tom Kim and KH Lee while Tony Finau and Max Homa raised their arms on the 18th hole in a close duel against Taylor Pendrith and Mito Pereira. And the inseparable friends, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, defeated the Canadian Corey Conners flanked by the South Korean Sungjae Im at the 17th pennant.
“I’ve been doing this job long enough to know that this day could have gone the other way, too,” said US captain Davis Love III. Red dominated all day and at one point I heard we were one hole ahead in three of five games. It could have turned very quickly.
“There is still a long way to go, although we are very satisfied with our start,” he continued. We have to pursue our plan and win every session. »
In fact, both Canadians were on their way to amassing points before the opportunity slipped through their fingers. Missing great chances on the greens, Conners proved he still had some crusts to eat to tame his putter. Pendrith meanwhile had to recover a fatal blunder from his teammate in the 18th.
“We didn’t give our best performance, but we fought,” pleaded Pendrith, eyes sparkling at the end of his first career game at the Presidents Cup.
“We were able to put pressure on them in the middle of the round. The last five or six holes could have gone either way. I had a lot of fun and I have this desire to win. »
Conners, meanwhile, blamed himself for missing golden opportunities when he had Spieth and Thomas in the cables on the return, especially in the 11th and 15th. From the bunker about 100 yards from the 11th green, he hit the water. And following two spectacular shots from Thomas in the 15th at the end of “ Green Mile Conners missed the 7-foot putt that could have tied the game.
The Americans then came out with a two-hole lead.
“Justin made an incredible shot from a precarious position from the long grass and he wedged an equally incredible putt,” Spieth said of his sidekick’s 202-yard and 27-foot putt.
“He made the difference in this match,” said the Texan who would have liked to perform better, but who remains undefeated in this format in six duels at the Presidents Cup.
The internationals must now bounce back into a formula that suits them much better today. Since 1994, they have posted a record of 62 wins, 59 losses and 12 draws in 4-ball format, the better of the two scores on each hole.
“We are able to come out strong and win a few points, wished Pendrith who will find his compatriot Conners. We could orchestrate our ascent after crossing this first day. »
No other choice, because if the Americans were to dominate again, the lead would be insurmountable this weekend.
Quail Hollow Express
In quartet formula (alternate moves), Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are unbeatable. Talk to Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott who had a long afternoon on Thursday. Varlopés, they finally waved the white flag at the 13th pennant. Very few matches usually end there since 95.5% of duels go to the 14th. In short, the pair Patrick and Xander have been riding at breakneck speed in this game format since they were reunited at the 2019 Presidents Cup at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club. They are perfect as they have won all five games if you also count their Ryder Cup exploits at Whistling Straits last year.
“We are very motivated. We enjoy playing together in this format of the game. We are good friends and we like the competition, said Schauffele. We are comfortable with each other. »
“We are also very confident,” added Cantlay. We really had a good day. Because we didn’t commit any bogeys. Indeed, they began their work of destruction at the fifth pin and then won three holes in a row thanks to birdies. And on the way back, when Matsuyama and Scott continued to get bogged down, they kept up their pace by quickly completing the job.
Former President Bill Clinton
There will be a big visit to Charlotte this weekend. Former Presidents George W. Bush and bill clinton will disembark at Quail Hollow to watch the competition. In 2000, Clinton had been the honorary president while Bush had done the same in 2005. On both occasions, the event took place at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, in Virginia. The presidential visit is a custom in this competition. Thus, Joe Biden should show up on Sunday, according to what the governor of North Carolina, the democrat Roy Cooper announced. In 2007, in Montreal, Stephen Harper held the position of honorary president. It now remains to be seen who will be in 2024 when they return to the prestigious Royal Montreal club. If he resists another two years, Justin Trudeau could well be there … and deliver a performance by singing the national anthem as a curtain raiser for the tournament. He sang so well in London!
Fun and Latin dishes
After a tough day on the greens where he missed numerous putts, Corey Conners stumbled onto the practice green before dark. To bring together his men who worked hard during the first session, the captain of the international team, Trevor Immelman, invited them to a festive evening with Latin food to rediscover the pleasure. “It’s been a very long day. We must regroup and find a smile. I keep the same message. You have to play without pressure. Nobody believes we can win. We really have to believe in ourselves down to our guts and fight on the course. We must continue to believe in fate. »
Young takes over
Collin Morikawa has found his new accomplice: Cameron Young. The latter resembles in several points his faithful companion at Whistling Straits 12 months ago, Dustin Johnson.
He is almost as tall, he wears a beard and he is as powerful if not more than the 38-year-old veteran who decided to join LIV Golf. Several observers wondered how the young star Morikawa would react to the loss of his compatriot with whom he had won three games last year at the Ryder Cup. That first outing with Young was a rollercoaster ride, but they were able to beat Tom Kim and KH Lee on the 17th hole by getting each other out of trouble. “I did the iron shots and he did the tee shots and the putts,” Morikawa said with a smile. We make a good pair, especially when Cam knocks the ball out on the other side of the world right in the middle of the fairway and I can attack the pennant with an 8-iron on a par-5.” In 2022, Young finished at third-longest hitter with an average of 319.3 yards.