US still leads despite Tiger falling
The Americans kept the lead in the Presidents Cup, and they still don’t have a point from Tiger Woods.
In some of the toughest conditions ever at Royal Melbourne, Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day earned a small measure of redemption by holding on to beat Woods and Dustin Johnson on the 18th hole that helped the International team split the six fourball matches Friday.
The Americans led 7-5 going into a double session Saturday with 10 points at stake.
Woods is 0-2 for the first time ever in this event, and the first time in any team competition since he and Phil Mickelson lost their opening two matches at the 2004 Ryder Cup.
The state of his game was tough to measure, as was the case with any other player. The wind was vicious. On a sand belt course with fast greens, the most telling statistic was that 13 holes in the six matches were won with pars – a rarity in the better-ball format.
International captain Greg Norman, who knows Royal Melbourne as well as anyone, poured water on the 18th green to drive home just how hard it was. The green repelled the water down the slope, none of it absorbed in the firm turf.
”There’s probably no where else in the world where that would happen,” Norman said.
Norman was mostly impressed with Baddeley and Day. One day after they bogeyed the last two holes and had to settle for a halve, Baddeley came through in the clutch with a tough par on the last hole – right after Woods nearly chipped in for birdie from behind the green – to help keep the International team in the game.
”I was very disappointed yesterday. I feel like I let Jason down,” Baddeley said. ”So it was great to come through today and make par on the last hole.”
Woods was the only American without a point. His game looks fine. The numbers are shocking.
His partnership – Steve Stricker in foursomes Thursday, Johnson in fourballs on Friday – has won only one hole in two matches. That came on the fourth hole Friday when Woods rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt, complete with a fist pump that is rarely seen these days. The lead lasted only four holes, however, as Baddeley and Day squared the match with a par on the eighth.
Baddeley made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 13th to go 1 up, and Woods and Johnson couldn’t catch up. They just didn’t have enough birdie chances and when they did, they couldn’t make them.
”Just trying to hit the greens, that was s heck of an accomplishment,” Woods said. ”Wedges weren’t holding, balls were oscillating on the greens, you’ve got to play the wind on putts. It was a tough day.”
The north wind is considered the toughest at Royal Melbourne. The wind blows harder on links courses in the British Open, but these greens have far more slope and most are elevated. The premium is on precision, and even that isn’t always enough.
”It’s carnage on a golf course like this today,” Adam Scott said after he and K.T. Kim lost to Mickelson and Jim Furyk. ”Thank goodness it’s match play and we weren’t actually counting our strokes.
”Today is a day where it’s hard to feel like you’re playing well.”
Ernie Els, a multiple winner at Royal Melbourne, said it was the fastest he has ever seen the greens because of the heat and wind. Officials did not cut the greens overnight, fearful of wind blowing golf balls all over the place.
”On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 11 today,” Norman said about the conditions as the round began.
The Americans managed just fine.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, the leadoff match for the second straight day, again beat Els and Ryo Ishikawa, closing them out on the 17th hole. Mickelson and Furyk also remained perfect, with Furyk making a birdie on the 17th for a 2-and-1.
At worst, the Americans would have a 7-5 lead, with 10 points at stake on Saturday.
The International team won the last two matches. Geoff Ogilvy, who grew up next door at Victoria Golf Club, holed a bunker shot on the fifth hole to give him and K.J. Choi a lead they never lost. More importantly, Ogilvy holed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th to take down Nick Watney and Bill Haas, a team that still has not had the lead in two matches.
Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel, South Africans with three majors between them, won on the 17th hole against David Toms and Hunter Mahan.