Tour and News

What we’ve learned so far at 2011 Presidents Cup

Photo: Brandon Malone/Reuters

Timely putting has helped Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk go 2-0 so far in Melbourne.

Two days may feel like the halfway mark of the Presidents Cup, but 10 matches—five foursomes and five fourballs—are scheduled for Day Three, followed by 12 singles matches on the final day. That’s 22 points waiting to be won. So while the U.S. has a nice little lead, that’s all it is so far—nice, and little.
 
You’ll see a little more strategy in the double session. All 12 players teed it up the first two rounds, but now the captains have to sit two players each session. Steve Stricker and Nick Watney will rest during the morning session for the U.S. while Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim will not play for the Internationals.
 
Here’s what else we’ve learned so far at this Presidents Cup:
 
Tiger Woods is 0-2, and the U.S. has the lead anyway. Woods has played solidly, but not great. Stricker, his opening-day partner, didn’t play very well, and Dustin Johnson, his fourballs partner, struggled in the high winds. You can’t pin all of the goose egg on Woods. But Tiger’s critics probably won’t pay any attention to that.
 
How important is experience, really? The Americans have discovered two terrific teams—old-timers Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk and Presidents Cup newbies Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson. Mickelson and Furyk have wanted to team up ever since they were paired in the ’99 Ryder Cup, and they’ve played well despite having seasons well below their usual standards. Mickelson ditched his belly putter and has had some success with the short stick. The lack of experience hasn’t hurt the younger duo. Watson has turned into a dynamic match-play competitor, displaying the passion usually reserved for the Ryder Cup. Simpson, meanwhile, may simply be the best American golfer, period. Both teams are 2-0 and looking invincible.
 
Is the fanny pat the new high five? Australian Jason Day, paired with fellow Aussie Aaron Baddeley for a second straight day, was seen giving Baddeley pats on the rear end for encouragement. Is it a new fad? Or just a Down Under thing? Stay tuned. Baddeley, who popped up a bad drive on the 18th hole the first day that resulted in a bogey and a halved match instead of a win, redeemed himself in fourballs by holing a clutch par putt on the 18th green to preserve a win. Day and Baddeley are paired again for the third-round foursomes.
 
The new king of the team room is… Matt Kuchar. Apparently, Kooch is not only a world-class trash-talker, giving Mickelson a run for his money, but he’s the hands-down champ of the Ping-Pong table, easily dethroning Mickelson, who thought he was pretty good. Kuchar and Stricker won their fourballs match, too.
 
Perseverance counts. Golf Channel commentators were sure that Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa would be split up en route to going 0-2 in their first two matches, but Els told Norman he wanted to stick with the Japanese youngster, whose short game has been sharp but whose iron game has been off. So Els and Ryo will go out together for a third straight time.
 
Who’s got the edge? These matches are still a toss-up. It’s too early to call.

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