News & Opinion

Tiger Woods emerges as Americans’ lone bright spot

Player-captain teams with Justin Thomas to win only point for U.S. and avoid a shutout on Day 1 of Presidents Cup

MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods planned to make a statement early in the Presidents Cup when he went out in the first match Thursday with good friend Justin Thomas. However, Woods didn’t know that the rest of his U.S. team wouldn’t get the message. Their captain proved to be the best player on the course in the opening four-balls session.

Tiger Woods, with help from partner Justin Thomas, delivers the lone point for the Americans in the opening session of the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

On a windy day at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Woods showed that Father Time means little to the best player of his era. He deftly pitched to within tap-in range for a conceded birdie on the par-4 first hole, his first of six birdies on the day. He and Thomas never trailed in their four-balls match, cruising to a 4-and-3 victory against the Internationals’ Joaquin Niemann and Marc Leishman.

It would be the only point earned for the heavily favored U.S. team, which finds itself trailing, 4-1 (scores/pairings). The Americans have won seven consecutive matches in the biennial series, which they lead, 10-1-1. Now, the U.S. must seek to counter the Internationals’ momentum.

Woods, 43, exerted control of his swing and his game, continually summoning the sort of shot-making and clutch putting that delivered 82 PGA Tour victories, including this year’s Masters.

“He played great,” Thomas said. “I mean, I just didn't really take advantage of the opportunities, but that's what you have a partner for. It was awesome. It's nice knowing when I step up on a par 3 or a par 4 that I feel free, just because I know he's playing well, and he did.”

Of the eight holes that Woods and Thomas won, six were credited to Woods. Fittingly, Woods drained the match-winning birdie putt on the par-5 15th hole. It was Woods’ 25th victory in the Presidents Cup, just one behind U.S. leader Phil Mickelson.

Though Woods the player could do no wrong, Woods the captain has a lot to figure out. His team looked lethargic and failed to make crucial putts, a hallmark of losing U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

“This is a long four days,” Woods said after making his Day 2 pairings. He will go out again with Thomas, against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An, as the format switches to foursomes, or alternate shot.

“We have to go earn this cup,” Woods said. “Just because we lost the session doesn't mean the cup's over. There's a long way to go, a lot of points available. The guys will regroup, and we'll come out tomorrow ready to go.”