DUBLIN, Ohio — Tiger Woods sat in a cart with a tiny squirrel resting on his shoulder. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel walked onto the first tee wearing wigs to make up for their bad haircuts. Fred Couples had cupcakes delivered to him by the opposing captain in honor of his 54th birthday.
Opening day at the Presidents Cup was unlike any other Thursday at Muirfield Village.
Except for the score.
After six hours of fourballs that produced 102 birdies, two eagles and a new celebrity named “Sammy the Squirrel,” the Americans won the opening session for the fourth straight time, a solid start in their quest to maintain dominance in this event.
But it took a great save from a plugged lie in the bunker by Steve Stricker in the final match on the course to give the Americans a 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead. And despite being in another hole, this only felt like a divot to an International team inspired by the clutch play of Hideki Matsuyama, the South African duo of Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, and the refusal to be spooked from trailing early in every match.
“There’s plenty of heart on the team,” Adam Scott said. “And think we should take a lot of that.”
Ernie Els didn’t make a birdie until the 17th hole, but his 12-footer extended the match to the 18th hole. The Internationals looked like they might win the last hole with a par when 20-year-old Jordan Spieth drove into the water and Stricker’s approach plugged into the face of the bunker. He blasted out to 3 feet, and de Jonge missed his 18-foot birdie putt to end a wild day.
“You don’t want anybody else to have to get that up-and-down other than Steve Stricker, so, God, what a match,” Spieth said. “It was incredible.”