A frustrated US skipper Tiger Woods. Picture: Michael Klein
A frustrated US skipper Tiger Woods. Picture: Michael Klein

Team USA can’t follow valiant Tiger’s lead

A vintage six-birdie Tiger Woods clinic was the only bright light on a grim opening day for the American team.

US captain Woods, who had to pick himself to get a run this week, carried playing partner and world No.4 Justin Thomas to a 4&3 win over Aussie Marc Leishman and Chilean young gun Joaquin Niemann.

It was his team's only point for the day.

Captain's assistant Fred Couples said pre-tournament he only expected Woods, 43, to play three of a possible four matches, but Thursday's shocker forced the US team's brains trust to rewrite the game plan.

"We had a couple different options rolling into this entire Cup," Woods said of his decision to play foursomes on Friday.

"The guys have known the game plan, different possible options, and this is one of the scenarios."

The world No. 6 will again tee it up with Thomas in the second-last match.

Woods, who went out first in Thursday's four-ball, started birdie-birdie before chipping in for another at the par 3 fifth.

 

Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker. Picture: Michael Klein
Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Asked post-round what was working in his pairing with Woods, Thomas quipped: "Tiger was working so well between the two of us today.

"He played great. I mean, I just didn't really take advantage of the opportunities, but that's what you have a partner for.

"It was awesome. It's nice knowing when I step up on a par 3 or a par 4 that I feel free just because I know he's playing well, and he did.

"He played great … and that's why we got it done."

Woods said his assistant Steve Stricker was the team's acting captain while he was out on the course.

"My obligation today was to go out there and earn a point with J.T," Woods said.

"I was focused on that. Obviously we're looking at boards and seeing how guys are doing. "There are TV boards everywhere, and so yeah, we're taking a look … and you know, there were some tight matches out there that flipped.

"This is a long four days. I mean, we have to go earn this Cup. Just because we lost the session doesn't mean the Cup's over.

"There's a long way to go. A lot of points available. The guys will regroup and we'll come out ready to go."

Niemann held his own against Woods, winning back-to-back holes at 7 and 8, but Leishman battled for most of his round.

A busted 2-iron on the driving range didn't help his cause.

Leishman sunk a lengthy birdie at 12 to cut the deficit to two, but ploughed his drive at 15 deep into the trees to snuff out hope of a fightback.

"They got off to a really hot start," Leishman said.

"I don't think either of us played our best golf. Like I said at the start of the week, we have to play good golf to beat these guys. Unfortunately we didn't."

News Corp Australia

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