Fred Couples raised eyebrows when he sat down the undefeated Phil Mickelson for afternoon four-ball at the Presidents Cup, but the lopsided score going into those matches indicated there was no cause for panic on the part of American supporters.
Mickelson, with support from two-time Canadian Open champ Jim Furyk, his partner in crime over the first three days, were foundations in the 11-6 U.S. lead over the Internationals, offering Couples the luxury of keeping Mickelson fresh for singles play.
Suddenly, the 17 1/2 points needed to win this thing was getting large on the American radar in the middle of yesterdayís play and even a split in afternoon play would have the U.S. in a commanding position going into the final day.
The Americans came close to a split, winning a couple of four-ball matches, but give the Internationals marks for grit after winning three of the five afternoon matches.
The U.S. goes into final day singles with a 13-9 lead, so the Internationals will need all the grit they can muster on the final day.
The Americans have come together in a week that began with a lot of nonsense surrounding one guy and what Tiger Woods would do when he met his former bag man Steve Williams, now employed by Adam Scott, on the first tee.
So often accused of not playing as a team in Ryder Cup team, the Americans got past the silliness surrounding one guy and have come together as a unit, with players such as Jim Furyk and Mickelson and Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson looking cohesive.
Soggy conditions at Royal Melbourne couldnít bog down the American momentum that saw the U.S. win four of five foursomes matches in the morning.
Not only did the teams of Mickelson/Furyk and Simpson/Watson stay undefeated, but Woods got his first point of the Presidents Cup, playing with Dustin Johnson.
In morning foursomes play, Simpson/Watson stayed true to form by winning the opening match 3 and 2 against Robert Allenby/Geoff Ogilvy, while the other undefeated team, Mickelson/Furyk won 2 and 1 against Aaron Baddeley/Jason Day.
Hunter Mahan/David Toms defeated Retief Goosen/Charl Schwartzel 5 and 4 and, playing with Johnson, Woods earned his first point of the Presidents Cup in a 3 and 2 win over Adam Scott/ K.J. Choi, the very duo who smoked Tiger and Stricker on opening day.
Oddly enough, it was a duo who looked so uncomfortable with one another the previous day that captured the Internationals only point of the morning when Ernie Els/Ryo Ishikawa finished 1 up against Bill Haas/Matt Kuchar.
Having established a five-point edge going into afternoon four-ball, Simpsonís/Watsonís undefeated streak came to an end as Goosen/Schwartzel won 2 and 1. At that point, KT Kim/Y.E. Yang had beaten Woods/Johnson 1 up, as well.
Ogilvy/Choi also picked up a 1 up win for the Internationals against Kuchar/Stricker, but the Americans got a 2 and 1 win from Mahan/Haas against Baddeley/Day, while Furyk/Nick Watney 1 defeated Scott/Els 1 up.
NO PAIN IN THE NECK
Couples elected to sit Steve Stricker out for morning foursomes, but said there was no concern for the neck problems that plagued Stricker in the latter part of the PGA Tour season. Couples simply didnít want him playing all five matches. Stricker was coming off a win with Matt Kuchar the day before ... Hunter Mahan holed out from 153 yards for an eagle to win the par four sixth hole with Toms against Goosen and Schwartzel in morning foursomes. That put the Americans 1 up in a match they began to dominate afterwards, in part due to three bogeys in five holes by the Internationals who were briefly 1-up after four ... Watney didnít play the morning for the Americans while Kim and Yang sat out for the Internationals ... Toms also didnít play the afternoon for the Americans, while Ishikawa and Allenby sat for the Internationals.
HEíS MY PAL
It was somewhat of a surprise when Greg Norman paired Els and Ishikawa once again in morning foursomes after an 0-2 start for that duo over the first two days. Norman says both players requested to play with one another again ... They say if youíre not enjoying the weather down under, just wait a minute and it will change and that appears to be the case for todayís singles competition. The weather report is looking better than originally expected. Although it will be cool in the morning at 13 C, itís expected to warm up to 22 with variable cloudiness and a 30% chance of rain ... In 2009, the Americans earned 6 1/2 points in singles, but need just five to win. They earned 3 1/2 of those points in the first four matches. Woods clinched the Presidents Cup with a 6 and 5 win over Yang.