The Presidents Cup continued Friday at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia.
Fred Couples and Greg Norman took different tacks in choosing their Friday teams. Couples left his Thursday teams largely intact, his only changes were to pair Tiger with Dustin Johnson and slip Steve Stricker in with Matt Kuchar instead.
Norman changed all but two of his teams, Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa and Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day. Geoff Ogilvy picked up K.J. Choi and Charl Schwartzel moved over to Retief Goosen. Robert Allenby left Goosen to go to Y.E. Yang. And K.T. Kim left Yang to join Adam Scott. Other than that, nothing much happened.
All of the tee times were moved up in anticipation of blustery winds and afternoon rains. The rain never developed, but the wind was such a factor that you even had to compensate for it on putts. It was a brutal day for trying to hit shots with high expectations and then coolly accept the imprecision the wind wrought. I think it was David Feherty who said that if you were able to hit a green from anywhere, even just 30 years away, it was a great shot, so difficult were the conditions and so beguiling the course.
What’s on the way to becoming the Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson machine took down Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa again, this time a little closer, 2 & 1. The Americans birdied the 6th to go 1-up for the second time in the match, and then followed that with three more birdies over the course of the match to remain in the lead throughout. The chemistry between these two appears solid and it’s quite interesting that it’s Bubba who seems to be the calming influence.
Steve Stricker seems to have found a new home with Matt Kuchar. The two mild-mannered, solid citizens just trundled along making six birdies to Y.E. Yang and Robert Allenby’s four and won 4 & 3. The Americans just made theirs in all the right places. Part of what made that possible was the atmosphere that goes with having a comforting partner. Tour nice guy Steve Stricker is nothing if not comforting.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk teamed up again to beat Adam Scott and K.T. Kim 2 & 1. This was an important win, if not huge, because it involved beating home-country hero Scott. While it might give Scott added incentive to come back strong, he’ll have to do so knowing that he isn’t invincible. The Americans will have a much easier time of it if they can keep the lid on team leader Scott. Hopefully they’ll be able to do that with about 70% less collaboration on reading each other’s putts; it was excruciating watching all the stalking and pointing and whispered collaboration. My sense is that it made little difference in their results; they missed as often as they made.
Tiger Woods is licking his wounds again. He and Dustin Johnson lost 1-down to Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day. This kept the lid on Tiger and also buoyed two of the Aussies on the International Team in their home country. These are the little intangibles that make such a cumulative difference in match play. And, parenthetically vis-à-vis Mickelson and Furyk, Baddeley is an instinctive putter; he looks at the line until he sees it, addresses his ball, takes one look at the hole, his eyes come back to the ball and he strokes the ball. It is concise, short and very effective.
Royal Melbourne member, Geoff Ogilvy and K.J. Choi managed to hold off Bill Haas and Nick Watney 1-up. Haas left a putt for a halve dead on line but just short. That seemed to be a big issue for everyone today. The first day, the greens were putting at 14+ on the Stimpmeter. But today, knowing the wind was going to blow and the matches would have to be delayed if the balls wouldn’t stay put on the greens, the committee didn’t have them rolled in the morning. Just that little bit altered the players feel for the greens and they were short all day.
And finally Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel hung on to beat Hunter Mahan and David Toms 2 & 1. Schwartzel actually seemed to have a pained expression on his face with the relief of it all. It was nice that Norman paired the two South Africans together: the two understated, quiet men.
Today ended up being a holding action for the United States. They maintained their two point lead and now lead to 7 to 5.
Saturday (our Friday) each captain will sit two players in the morning and afternoon matches. The morning will be five foursomes matches and the afternoon will be five four-ball matches. Once again there is rain in the forecast and some wind. The greens will soften up a little bit but it will be cooler and it’s no fun playing in rain gear.
These are the pairings for the five foursomes matches in the morning:
Webb Simpson/Bubba Watson versus Robert Allenby/Geoff Ogilvy
Bill Haas/Matt Kuchar versus Ernie Els/Ryo Ishikawa
Hunter Mahan/David Toms versus Retief Goosen/Charl Schwartzel
Tiger Woods/Dustin Johnson versus Adam Scott/K.J. Choi
Phil Mickelson/Jim Furyk versus Aaron Baddeley/Jason Day
The Americans will be sitting Nick Watney and Steve Stricker and the Internationals will be sitting Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim.
The broadcast begins on the Golf Channel at 3 PM (Eastern)
As usual, the thing we’ll all be watching for is how the players respond to the rising pressure as the matches draw closer to Sunday’s finale.