Phil Mickelson Americans surge to big lead in Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club

The United States dominated the opening-round leaderboard at the Presidents Cup Thursday, surging to a 5 1/2-1/2 lead over the International team at Royal Montreal Golf Club.

The Americans were so dominant that, if not for a bit of good sportsmanship, it might have been a total whitewash. The act of goodwill came on the 18th hole when, believing he was following the instructions of Captain Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and partner Woody Austin conceded a 3 1/2-foot putt to Vijay Singh of the International team to halve the foursome match after a solid chip by Mike Weir.

Mickelson said he didn't question Nicklaus' decision to give Singh the putt.

"Captain Nicklaus said it was the right thing to do," Mickelson told reporters. "It was a hard-fought battle. There didn't need to be a winner or loser, and Vijay is not going to miss that putt. It's too short - I haven't seen him miss that in four or five years."

In his press conference following the round, however, Nicklaus wouldn't take credit for the friendly gesture.

"I think that Phil and Woody made the right decision," Nicklaus said. "They both felt that Mike (Weir) had played a good match, and Mike being a Canadian and being here, that it was the right thing to do.
"And I'm glad they did. I would support it 100 percent."

Weir said the concession, especially if it came from Nicklaus, wouldn't surprise him in a competition that features Nicklaus and Gary Player as captains.

"They do the right thing and they have for their whole career," Weir said. "I'd like to think that if it was role reversal there, we would have done the same thing."

Although most of the matches were competitive, the U.S. team found a way to dominate on the scoreboard. Two of the International team's best hopes for victories were dashed on No. 18 as Ernie Els missed a four-footer to saddle he and partner Angel Cabrera with a 1-up loss to Jim Furyk and David Toms, while Stuart Appleby hit an errant tee shot that hampered he and Retief Goosen's chances in a 2-up setback against Scott Verplank and Lucas Glover.

"The matches were very, very close and could have gone either way in many, many matches," Player told reporters. "But there are no ifs and ands and we are a long way behind the first day. We only got half a point. Tomorrow, things could turn around."

Nicklaus said he was definitely surprised.

"Needless to say, if you would say if this is what I expected the results to be, I would say no," Nicklaus said. "But am I happy with them? Absolutely, I'm happy with them. Our guys played well. They played well down the stretch.

"Even the match that they halved - Austin holed about a 12-footer at 16. Phil holed a 20-footer at 17 and Austin came back with about a 12-footer at 18 to just halve the match."

The duos of Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III also recorded first-day wins. Woods and Howell defeated K.J. Choi and Nick O'Hern 3 and 1.

Woods said the fast start was reminiscent of 2000 when the U.S. team took a 5-0 lead in the first round.

"We're a long ways away from the end of this thing - there are so many points available," Woods told reporters. "You know they are going to come out with some of their best pairings and top guys out early and try to turn this thing around. We need to still go out there and play well and get our points."

Presidents Cup

Thursday, Sept. 27
At Royal Montreal Golf Club (Blue Course)
• Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, def. Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott, International, 3 and 2.
• Phil Mickelson and Woody Austin, United States, halved with Vijay Singh and Mike Weir, International.
• Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, United States, def. Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, International, 1 up.
• Jim Furyk and David Toms, United States, def. Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera, International, 1 up.
• Scott Verplank and Lucas Glover, United States, def. Stuart Appleby and Retief Goosen, International, 2 up.
• Tiger Woods and Charles Howell III, United States, def. K.J. Choi and Nick O'Hern, International, 3 and 1.

Friday's Fourball Pairings
All Times EDT
• 11:35 a.m.--Mickelson and Mahan, United States, vs. Cabrera and Goosen, International.
• 11:47 a.m.--Woods and Furyk, United States, vs. Singh and Appleby,
• 11:59 a.m.--Johnson and Howell, United States, vs. Els and Weir,
• 12:11 p.m.--Stricker and Verplank, United States, vs. Scott and Choi,
• 12:23 p.m.--Cink and Glover, United States, vs. Ogilvy and O┬╣Hern,
• 12:35 p.m.--Austin and Toms, United States, vs. Immelman and Sabbatini, International.

September 28, 2007

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