On a cool morning with a spot of rain too, it was all smiles for the United States early on as playing-captain Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas won the opening two holes. Indeed, they would go on to take out Marc Leishman and Joaquin Niemann 4&3. But that was that for the visitors as the Internationals rallied big time to take all four remaining matches to open up a shock three-point lead. Adam Scott and Byeong Hun An took the lead for good at the sixth and beat Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau 2&1 while, in the bottom match, Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Ancer powered into a 4up lead through five holes against Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson and cruised home 4&3. The other two matches were tight affairs but, crucially, the Internationals edged them both. Adam Hadwin holed what proved a decisive 11-foot birdie at 16 as he and Sungjae Im defeated Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 1up while Hideki Matsuyama slammed in a 27-foot go-ahead birdie at 17 before he and C.T. Pan halved the last to win 1up against Patrick Reed, who had earlier tied the match with an 11-foot birdie at 16, and Webb Simpson. Despite the gap, most bookmakers make this too close to call and quote both teams at the same price.
Day 1 Fourballs - Internationals 4 United States 1
Match score: Internationals 4 USA 1
Points leaders so far
Revised betting: 21/20 USA, Internationals 21/20, Tie 10/1.
Ernie Els: "I didn’t envision 4-1. So it’s a nice start. You know, we haven’t had a start like this for many, many years. We’ve got a long event to go still, and you know, we’re loving the golf course. We’d like to get the crowd a little bit louder on our side. It was a little quiet out there today, but hopefully they get going tomorrow. But we’re playing an excellent side, and they will be coming back strong tomorrow. So we’ll have to counter that.”
Tiger Woods: "This is a long four days. We have to go earn this Cup. Just because we lost this session doesn’t mean the Cup’s over. There's a long way to go. A lot of points available. The guys will regroup and we'll come out tomorrow ready to go."
Justin Thomas: "Tiger was working so well between the two of us today. He played great. He really carried me out there. It was a tough day out there and to have as many birdie putts as he had on a couple of holes was the reason we won the match.”
Adam Hadwin: "My first winning match in The Presidents Cup. It was so much fun. Sungjae makes it so easy to play with. He's so solid tee-to-green and relaxes me quite a bit.”
Sungjae Im: "Surprisingly I wasn't too nervous. I was going to hit a 3-iron off the (first) tee but Ernie came up and advised me to hit a driver since the pin was to the left and obviously it worked out really well. I'm really happy about my results and I'm excited for tomorrow."
Adam Scott: "This is the start we needed. We haven't seen this for a while. We've got to try to keep this lead now as long as possible and hopefully the week runs out. This thing has been planned out very well. The Big Easy (Els) has definitely kept us very calm this week, and you can see that today the way a lot of our rookies played.”
Louis Oosthuizen: "My man (Ancer) just made everything. He hit it good. He hit fairways, greens, and it's all on him today. It was unreal.”
Road to victory in Presidents Cup
2017 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 3.5-1.5 (Foursomes)
2015 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 4-1 (Foursomes)
2013 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 3.5-2.5 (Fourballs)
2011 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 4-2 (Foursomes)
2009 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 3.5-2.5 (Foursomes)
2007 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 5.5-0.5 (Foursomes)
2005 Winners USA. Day 1 score: Internationals led 3.5-2.5 (Foursomes)
2003 Tied match. Day 1 score: Internationals led 3.5-2.5 (Foursomes)
2000 Winners USA. Day 1 score: USA led 5-0 (Foursomes)
1998 Winners: Internationals. Day 1 score led 3.5-1.5 (Foursomes)
Notes: You have to go back to 2005 to find the last time the Internationals led after the opening day. That year, they went into the singles tied at 11-11 before the Americans proved too strong and won 18.5-15.5. When the Internationals claimed their only win, here at Royal Melbourne in 1998, they ended day one with a two-point lead after winning the opening foursomes 3.5-1.5. One concerning stat for Tiger.... no team has ever lost the Presidents Cup after winning the first session by three or more points.
Focus on - Day 2 Foursomes
Notes: Ernie Els sticks to his gameplan and changes all five line-ups while Tiger retains three of the partnerships (including two losing ones) from the first day. That includes himself and Thomas with Woods almost forced to play again with his team in trouble. Says Els: "The guys played well today in their respective pairings, and tomorrow we feel comfortable with them again. The guys have practised this way, so going with that process.”
Focus on - The Internationals' secret weapon
The Internationals have enlisted the help of 15th Club - the data company, who crunched the numbers which helped Thomas Bjorn's Europeans blast the United States in the last Ryder Cup. And it's that secret data which explains why Els is happy to completely change the winning formula from day one. It seemed there were some natural, geographically-based partnerships for the Internationals to go with this week but the numbers have taken them down a different route. As Els told PGATOUR.com: "The numbers haven’t shown exactly what I expected. It’s funny. A lot of the personalities I wanted together; the data shows they are not compatible. To convey that to the players has been tough. As you can expect, certain players want to play together, but I can show them if it is not compatible. Now the good thing is the guys are taking that in and actually listening to me whereas in previous years guys were quite adamant who they wanted to play with. I have changed a little bit here and there where if a guy is not far off and they fit personality-wise, but I am really sticking to my data. We have to try something different. We have to play the guys where the planning points.” It worked spectacularly for Bjorn; so far, it's helped give the Internationals an early lead that no-one could have imagined.