CHARLOTTE, NC — The idea was for two of America’s most reliable teams to set the tone for the Presidents Cup on Thursday, and the result was predictable.
Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay made short work of Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama in the opener. They went 6-and-5 in the win, improving their record to 5-0 in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup foursomes.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, best friends since they were 14, made clutch shots to redeem themselves and hold off Sungjae Im and Corey Conners, 2 and 1.
Another strong top-to-bottom American team played at a high level on a hot day at Quail Hollow and took a 4-1 lead after the first session.
“I told the guys last night that we had to make a vote — us, JT and Jordan — and we did,” Schauffele said. “Playing this format on a day like today and not making any mistakes is exactly what we need.”
The international team, already underdogs in those matches, was further hurt by the Americans as players withdrew from the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf PGA Tour, including Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann.
All but ruled out the international side were Si Woo Kim and Cameron Davis. They were 2-under with four holes to play against Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns when they seized on the Americans’ mistakes to win at 2-over.
Two of the international team’s eight rookies, Taylor Pendrith and Mito Pereira, nearly picked up another point. They all went for a tough par-4 closing hole when Pereira hit a wild tee shot, Pendrith could only manage the right bunker and they bogeyed. Tony Finau and Max Homa got one win and one point.
“We did what we had to do,” Finau said.
United States International Organizations Jordan Spieth-Justin ThomasAdam Scott-Cam DavisScottie Scheffler-Sam BurnsSungjae Im-Sebastian MunozKevin Kisner-Cameron YoungMito Pereira-Christiaan BezuidenhoutPatrick Cantlay-Xander SchauffeleTom-Kim-Hidekii-Ma Taaxa-Houyschema-Mat-Houyschema
The other US point came from Collin Morikawa and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Cameron Young, who wowed the crowd in front of a full house at Quail Hollow and created a winning moment of their own.
They were in a tight match against 20-year-olds Tom Kim and KH Lee, each with six holes on the course. Back then, the last three matches could have gone either way. As easy as Cantlay and Schauffele looked in their opening encounter, it was just one point.
The Americans regained the lead when Morikawa pushed the wedge to 2 feet for birdie on the downwind 14th hole. The lead remained at 1 and appeared to be headed for the 18th when Young holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th to end the match.
“This moment is about all I can ask for,” Young said. “Obviously it’s the first day, but every point gained is important. And I’ve been waiting for this feeling for a long time.”
Cantlay and Schauffele took the long flight to Australia for the first time for the 2019 Presidents Cup, their first team appearances. They have become fast friends off the track and are becoming a tough team to beat on the ropes.
They got a lot of help from Scott and Matsuyama — two of the most experienced players on the international team — who missed a lot of putts that could have won or split holes along the way. Matsuyama missed from 4 feet on the third hole and the Americans took the lead and ran with it.
They birdied three straight through the par-5 seventh to take a 4-up lead, and they birdied the final three holes with pars.
Thomas, who won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in 2017, had a wild day. He chipped the 9-iron so badly on the par-3 fourth that it went 40 yards off the green. He hit a tee shot from the bunker on the par-5 16th. He and Spieth didn’t lose either hole.
The match changed on the 15th — usually the 18th for stroke play tournaments at Quail Hollow — when Spieth’s drive landed on the left side of the creek, Thomas managed to get behind the green and Spieth ran downhill. put some 25 feet to the hole.
Conners and Im were in position to win the hole, 7 feet, and square off the match. Thomas made a par putt, Conners missed and the Americans were 2 up heading to the second point.
“You win when you take on your partner, and he did that,” Spieth said. “That switch we had on the 15th was unreal there. Looking to level up and instead leave that green 2 up. That was the difference in the match.”
Five four-ball matches followed on Friday, and each point moves the Americans closer to a ninth straight win in those one-sided matches. They haven’t lost at home since the Presidents Cup began in 1994.
With such a dominant start, the Americans need just 11 points from 25 matches to retain the trophy.