5 things we learned on Day 1 at the Presidents Cup
The first day of the Presidents Cup played out as the bookmakers expected, with the heavily favored Americans dominating the opening session to hold a 4-1 lead heading to Friday.
Things looked bleak early for the International team, and while they grabbed a point late, it'll still be a monumental task to get back into the event during Friday's four-ball play.
Here are five things we learned at Quail Hollow Club on Thursday.
Schauffele/Cantlay are unstoppable
Good luck to whoever runs into Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay in any team golf events for the foreseeable future. The American duo - who the broadcast repeatedly reminded us are very good friends - have become an absolute buzzsaw in two-man competition. They added a brilliant performance Thursday to their list of recent successes. The pair, who won the Zurich Classic together last season on TOUR, are now 5-0-0 in foursomes action at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup following a 6&5 shellacking of Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama.
Schauffele and Cantlay played flawlessly on Thursday, shooting a bogey-free round of 4-under before closing out their counterparts on the 13th hole. The pair were the only team to avoid making a bogey on Day 1 and finished with the lowest score despite playing the least amount of holes.
Foursomes curse continues for Internationals
The International team's struggles in foursomes are a big reason the results have been one-sided over the Presidents Cup's existence. The Americans hold a narrow advantage all time in singles action and trail 68-65 in four-ball play. However, they own an outrageous 83.5-49.5 record in foursomes over the event's history.
It was more of the same early Thursday as the Americans jumped out to a lead in every match within the opening two hours of play. The International team actually went over 90 minutes of action without making a birdie before a conceded eagle on the seventh hole of the day's second match.
Golfers played 83 holes over the five matches Thursday, and the International team held a lead in a match after only three holes total - two of them being the final two holes in Cameron Davis and Si Woo Kim's improbable victory.
With the 4-1 advantage, the Americans have the lead after Day 1 for the seventh time in the last eight Presidents Cups.
U.S. is riding Morikawa's strength
There's little debate that Collin Morikawa is the best iron player in the world when he's on his game. The two-time major champion was certainly sharp Thursday, with the American team putting that skill to great use in a brilliant bit of strategy.
Captain Davis Love had Morikawa tee off on the even-numbered holes in the alternate-shot format, utilizing the layout at Quail Hollow to his advantage. That meant Morikawa hit the tee shots on all four par 3s, the second shot from just 168 yards on the short par-5 seventh, the tee shot on the drivable par-4 eighth, and the wedges on the lengthy par 5s over the backstretch. It totaled up to Morikawa essentially hitting the approaches on 16 of 17 holes throughout the round. When you take notice of Morikawa's proximity on those shots, it's easy to see why he and Cameron Young won.
The final average for his proximity to the hole on approach was 21 feet, 3 inches. With Young's long driving setting Morikawa up to attack pins and his hot putting cashing in those approaches, the two proved they could be a strong foursomes pairing for years to come.
Davis/Kim are up for the challenge
The only thing keeping the Americans from a perfect 5-0 start Thursday was an incredible closing stretch of golf by Davis and Kim. The fourth International pair of the day faced a daunting task against world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns. The Americans raced out to a hot start by going 3 up through seven holes.
Davis turned the match on its head with one shot, driving the green on the 321-yard, par-4 eighth to leave it just 14 feet for eagle. A two-putt birdie secured the win on that hole and saw the Internationals shoot 4-under on their final 11 holes of the match. Davis' brilliant approach to the 17th set up an easy birdie and put the Internationals ahead for the first time. The pair also won the 18th hole and took the match 2 up.
With the comeback charge, the duo ensured a point for the International team and stopped the Americans from holding a 5-0-0 advantage after the opening session for the second time in Presidents Cup history.
Spieth/Thomas can win ugly to stay perfect
It wasn't their best golf, but Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas had to grind their way to victory Thursday to keep a perfect record in Presidents Cup foursomes action. Spieth is now 6-0-0 in the format, while Thomas improved to 3-0-2.
Thomas is known for his fiery displays during team competitions, but the match against Sungjae Im and Corey Conners was largely muted for the first 14 holes. That changed on the 15th with some dramatics from the American pair to ensure a clutch par. After Spieth narrowly avoided the hazard off the tee, Thomas rifled an approach from thick rough to the back of the green. That left a very slick putt for Spieth, who raced it 26 feet past the hole to leave a significant distance for par. But Thomas rose to the occasion, pouring in the putt to send the pro-American crowd into a frenzy.
The star-studded duo recorded a final score over 17 holes of even par, a worse number than the other winning American teams Thursday. However, that won't matter in the record books as it was enough to eke out a victory. Spieth and Thomas will again pair together in Friday's four-ball session.
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