Day 1 at the Presidents Cup did not go well for the U.S. side. OK, that’s an understatement. It was a disaster for Tiger Woods and his team. No team trailing by at least three points after the opening session has ever won the Cup. The International side heads into the second day’s alternate-shot format looking to pad the lead even more. Here’s what’s coming on Day 2:
After a successful opening day, International captain Ernie Els decided to switch up his teams for the alternate-shot format. He says he has a plan. After Day 1, are we really going to doubt him? Oosthuizen and Scott both played brilliantly in Day 1 wins. (Oosthuizen was with Presidents Cup rookie Abraham Ancer, while Scott was with Byeong Hun-An, also making his first appearance.) Johnson, in his first action since September, was rusty. Kuchar was a spectator during the opening session; Rickie Fowler was the other American to sit out the best-ball openers.
Prediction: Oosthuizen/Scott win 2 and 1
Woods tried this pair on Day 1. He figured he’d give it another shot on Day 2. Schauffele and Cantlay played a tight match against Hadwin and Sungjae Im before falling in one of two 1-up matches the U.S. lost in the opening session. Schauffele and Cantlay had just two birdies on the first day — none of which came over the final 11 holes. That said, it wasn’t like Hadwin lit up Royal Melbourne. He had just one birdie, but it was the decisive one on the 16th hole that pushed an even match into a lead for the Internationals. Els is hoping Niemann got any nerves out of his system. The Presidents Cup rookie is just 21 years old and was facing off against a team with Woods in his very first match, so it’s probably understandable if he was feeling the pressure a bit.
Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed vs. Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer
Another repeat pairing from Woods. Also another U.S. team that suffered a 1-up loss in the first session. Reed tried to inject some emotion into the U.S. side on Day 1, screaming, “Let’s go!” after a big birdie at the 16th hole. But he and Simpson immediately lost the 17th hole and couldn’t scratch out a half-point on the 18th. Reed gets all the attention, but he’ll need more help from Simpson on Day 2 than he got on Day 1 if the U.S. has any chance of getting a point and chipping away at the International lead.
Prediction: Reed/Simpson win 3 and 2
Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas vs. Byeong Hun-An/Hideki Matsuyama
How good was Tiger Woods on the first day? His partner, Justin Thomas, was asked what worked for the pair in their easy 4 and 3 win. His response: Tiger. Woods made six birdies, the most of anybody on Day 1. If forced to tell the truth, Woods would say he’d prefer to be in a cart with a headset growing out of his ear, checking on matches across Royal Melbourne. But have you seen the scoreboard? Captain Woods could not afford to sit Player Woods, so here we are. Thomas knows he was nothing more than a spectator watching the Woods show a day earlier, so expect him to want to contribute on Day 2, if for no other reason than he doesn’t want to have to listen to Woods tell him how he carried him for two days. Matsuyama made perhaps the biggest putt of the first day, a long birdie at 17 to quickly diffuse any momentum Reed and the Americans had going. And An, in his first Presidents Cup, made a huge birdie at the 13th alongside Scott to halt any comeback hopes from Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau.
Prediction: Woods/Thomas win 4 and 3
Rickie Fowler/Gary Woodland vs. Cam Smith/Sungjae Im
Fowler and Smith both watched the action on Day 1. They get to actually take part on Day 2. It’s somewhat disappointing that Smith, who has been the most outspoken about Reed’s antics in the bunker last week at the Hero World Challenge, isn’t going up against Reed, but there’s still time. Woodland was with Dustin Johnson on Day 1 — and the pair got steamrolled by Oosthuizen and Ancer. While the blame for that loss can easily be placed on DJ’s rust, it should not go unnoticed that Woodland didn’t contribute a birdie until the last hole of the match, one that was equaled by Ancer and ended the 4 and 3 drubbing.
Prediction: Fowler/Woodland win 1-up.