MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Tiger Woods ended his birdie drought at wind-swept Royal Melbourne on Friday and the Americans looked set to at least maintain their lead over the Internationals at the Presidents Cup.
The U.S., ahead 4-2 after the six foursomes matches Thursday, led in three of six fourballs matches after the completion of nine holes Friday. The Internationals led in two, with Woods' match all square.
Woods, trying to make up for a 7-and-6 foursomes loss with Steve Stricker on Thursday in which they failed to make a birdie, hit a perfect curling downhill putt on the fourth that could have gone off the green if it hadn't hit the center of the hole.
The birdie, complete with an exaggerated downward fist pump, gave him and Dustin Johnson an early 1-up lead over Aaron Baddeley and Justin Day. But both Americans bogeyed the eighth, leaving the match even through 12.
Matt Kuchar and Stricker led Y.E. Yang and Robert Allenby 2-up after nine holes, including a halve on the ninth with bogeys. Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, who won their foursomes match Thursday, looked as if they were heading for another victory, leading Adam Scott and K.T Kim 3-up after 11.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, in the first group, had a 1-up lead after 13 holes over Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa. The Americans led 2-up at the turn, but both bogeyed the 10th. Simpson birdied the 11th and Els the 13 to get the Internationals closer.
For the Internationals, Geoff Ogilvy holed out from a bunker on the third for birdie, then added another birdie on the fourth to give him and K. J. Choi a 1-up lead over Bill Haas and Nick Watney after nine.
Retief Goosen had back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes to put him and fellow South African Charl Schwartzel ahead 2-up through nine over Hunter Mahan and David Toms.
Players fought strong, gusting wind from the north to northwest, a direction that always toughens the composite layout at Royal Melbourne.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it an 11 today,'' International captain Greg Norman said about the conditions as the groups teed off.
The greens became increasingly fast, and Watson witnessed it firsthand on the fourth hole – a group ahead of Woods. Watson watched his 20-foot curling birdie putt go past the hole, nearly stop, then continue to roll off the green and into a hollow, about 60 to 70 feet away from him.
There was a chance of thunderstorms later Friday afternoon, so officials moved up the start time Friday by two hours.
The Americans are trying to win the Presidents Cup for the fourth straight time. The Internationals have only won once in eight tournaments – at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
There are five foursomes and five fourballs matches scheduled Saturday, and 12 singles matches Sunday. There are 34 points awarded, with a team needing 17 1/2 to take the trophy.