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(Adds record loss for Woods, Stricker in seventh paragraph.)
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The defending champion U.S. took a two-point lead in golf’s Presidents Cup after dropping one of the six matches against the International team on the first day.
The U.S. went 4-2 up after its final two pairings out on the course rallied to halve their foursome matches at Royal Melbourne in Australia. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, unbeaten as a duo two years ago, were routed by Australia’s Adam Scott and K.J. Choi of South Korea in the U.S.’s only defeat.
“Tiger got blown out of here and we still fought hard and we have a 4-2 lead,” U.S. captain Fred Couples said in a televised interview. “I’ll take that any day.”
The Americans are seeking to win the Presidents Cup for the fourth straight time. Royal Melbourne in 1998 was the site of the International squad’s only victory in eight previous editions of the competition, which pits a team of 12 Americans against 12 non-European players.
The rallies by Bill Haas and Nick Watney, and Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar to score half-points came after neither American pair led their respective matches at any time. Johnson and Kuchar evened their matchup with Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley after the Australians bogeyed the final two holes.
Australian Geoff Ogilvy and his South African partner Charl Schwartzel were two holes up with four to play before bogeys at the 16th and 18th allowed Haas and Watney to pull even.
Scott and Choi had earlier tied the contest at 1-1 with a 7-and-6 victory over Woods and Stricker, meaning they held an unassailable seven-hole lead with six holes remaining. It was the biggest defeat suffered by either Woods or Stricker at the Presidents Cup.
It proved to be the International squad’s only win on the first day. The U.S. also led after the opening foursomes in its past two victories at the biennial team event.
“We had a good opportunity to really push all the way through today and square all the matches,” International captain Greg Norman said in a televised interview. “You’ve got to forget about what happened today. It’s like any golf tournament, you’ve got to look forward, not back. We have the ability to go out there and win more points.”
Officials said tee times for tomorrow’s six four-ball matches would be brought forward by two hours because of the threat of bad weather in the afternoon. Five foursomes and five four-ball matches are scheduled the following day and the event will close Nov. 20 with 12 singles matchups.
In foursomes, two players for each team play alternate shots with the same ball. The lowest score wins the hole, and the match goes to the pair with the most holes won. In four- balls, two players on each team compete against two opposing players, each hitting their own ball. The lowest score of the four wins the hole.
The Presidents Cup, which is made up of a total of 34 matches, was created by the U.S. PGA Tour in 1994 to give foreign players not eligible for the Ryder Cup a chance to compete against the U.S.
--Editors: Alex Duff, James Cone.
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