By David Kraft
ESPN Golf Online
Friday, October 20

LAKE MANASSAS, Va. -- For a few fleeting midday moments, it looked like the U.S. might completely fritter way its 5-0 opening-day lead at the Presidents Cup.

 Tiger Woods
Notah Begay III and Tiger Woods put their afternoon match away quickly, going 5-under over the first six holes.
The International team had won the first four best-ball matches in the morning, and Ernie Els and Vijay Singh still had a chance to at least halve their match with Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson. Five more matches loomed in the afternoon, a couple of which were just about to start.

An International crisis 24 hours in the making was on the verge of being defused.

But Love rammed in a 25-footer for birdie on the 17th hole to close out the final morning match, giving the Americans a two-point advantage.

Almost simultaneously, Kirk Triplett and Stewart Cink birdied the first hole of their afternoon match with Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby.

A few minutes later, Hal Sutton and Tom Lehman opened up a lead over Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen.

Loren Roberts and Paul Azinger won the first hole of their match moments after that.

After a quick bite of lunch, Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III, who never led in the morning session, started administering a solid thrashing of Singh and Els with birdies at the first two holes.

Just like that, the Internationals were back in crisis mode. The Americans were back in confidence mode. By sunset, the Americans had re-established their five-point lead. And it all turned around in about 60 minutes.

"I think any time in a team format, and the guys who start off are playing well, it tends to trickle down to the guys who are bringing up the rear," said Woods. "And especially in this type of format, where I think you have one more team playing than you do in the Ryder Cup. That means you have that many more matches per day, which means that you can really get it going."

Woods and Begay got it going early -- and often -- in the afternoon. They won the first six holes with three birdies and an eagle, as well as two bogeys by their rattled opponents. The lead was 6-up at the turn and the match ended at the 13th, matching the second-largest cushion in Presidents Cup history.

"We were 5-under through six and missed two short ones," said Woods. "It really could have been low."

Roberts and Azinger finished their match with birdies on five of their final six holes, ending it at the 14th.

Sutton and Lehman were never challenged in their match against Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen.

And Cink and Triplett, who asked to be paired together, are 2-0 in the Presidents Cup after beating Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby 2 and 1. Over two days and 33 holes, the duo is a combined 12-under.

"We've just played some great golf," said Cink.

The Americans are now 9-1 in alternate-shot matches -- a format they struggle at, according to conventional wisdom. In fact, Cink and Triplett had never played alternate shot until Wednesday.

"All I know is that our team is great at foursomes," Cink said.

Australian captain Peter Thomson would prefer dumping the format.

"I'm not a fan of foursomes," he said. "I think it's outdated and it's history. The sooner we get rid of it, the better."

The Aussie naturally blamed the mother country for the troubles. "It's a bloody English invention," he said.

There are no more foursomes to worry about for Thomson. Saturday brings five best-ball matches, followed by 12 singles matches Sunday. Thomson said his team needs to get to within three points heading into Sunday, meaning he needs to win four of five matches tomorrow.

"I don't want to get down," said Thomson. "We want to be up. Today was even -- five points each. That shows the balance of the match, if you wipe out that first day. I think we're pretty evenly balanced teams. And from here on, anything could happen."

And happen quickly.





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U.S. maintains cushion at Presidents Cup

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