Underdog Internationals seek fast start against US

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Patrick Reed of the U.S. Team putts as Jordan Spieth of the U.S. Team looks on during practice rounds prior to the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on Thursday in Jersey City, New Jersey. AFP PHOTO

JERSEY CITY, United States: International team rookies Kim Si-Woo and Emiliano Grillo face a baptism of fire on Thursday (Friday in Manila) when they launch their first Presidents Cup against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.

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Captain Nick Price’s Internationals are trying to break the US stranglehold on the match play event.

The Americans have won nine of 11 prior editions — with one tie and the lone International triumph coming back in 1998.

World number two Spieth and 20th-ranked Reed are a partnership proven in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play.

But Argentina’s Grillo was eager to take them on.

“This is different,” he said. “This is another golf course, this is another time of our lives. So we’ll see tomorrow.”

World number three Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa lead off for the Internationals against Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.

Thomas arrives at his first Presidents Cup on the back of a stellar season that saw him capture the PGA Tour’s $10 million FedEx Cup playoff crown.

Americans Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar then take on Australian veteran Adam Scott and newcomer Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.

International big guns Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, both of South Africa, will take on US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Grace and Oosthuizen became the first team to go 4-0 in Presidents Cup play two years ago.

Aussie duo Jason Day and Mark Leishman will meet five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner in the final match of the opening day.

In Incheon, South Korea, two years ago, the Internationals were down 1-4 after the first day — a deficit that proved too much to overcome in a one-point defeat.

“The alternate shot has always killed us in the past,” Day said. “If we can play well in the alternate-shot, I think we’ve got a really good shot at winning.”

Oosthuizen, too, said a strong start was key against the in-form Americans.

“We’ve got to make the guys behind us see that the guys in front are playing well, and that’s always been the tough part,” he said. “The US has always come out so strong, and this year being on home turf, it’s going to be even extra hard to do that.

“But I think if you see your teammates play well, that really gets you going.”

While Price acknowledged the wisdom of pairing rookies with more experienced players — as with Vegas and Scott — he said Kim and Grillo just clicked in their practice rounds.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Grillo said. “Si-Woo and I, we were a great team yesterday. He plays pretty much the same game I do. We get along with each other.”

But Spieth and Reed, who will have the support of a vocal New York area crowd, don’t plan to let their inexperienced opponents get a foothold.

“Patrick and I are very serious and very focused on (Thursday) in this alternate-shot format where we have been very successful,” said Spieth, who claimed his third major title at the British Open this year.

“We’re out there. Doesn’t matter who we are playing. We’re doing our best to try and just control what we can control because tomorrow is a big day in shutting down any momentum they may feel.”

AFP

 

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