|U.S. team player Phil Mickelson tees off on the 17th hole during the second round of the Presidents Cup golf tournament in Melbourne November 18, 2011. (REUTERS/Brandon Malone)
Never one to dance around a subject, International team captain Greg Norman was asked about how tough a day was ahead in Day 2 four-ball play at the Presidents Cup.
ďOn a scale of one to 10, Iíll give it 11,Ē said Norman in the blustery conditions that characterized the entire day in which his team was pressed to come back from a disappointing 4-2 deficit against the United States in Day 1 foursomes.
Norman, whose team allowed the Americans to claw back to halve two matches on opening day, talked about the importance of his team resisting the temptation to get it all back at one time. Better to be patient and chip away at the lead, said the Shark.
His team heeded its captainís advice and won three of the six matches, but the Americans hold a 7-5 lead, the same two-point margin they had coming into the day.
Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson defeated Ernie Els/Ryo Ishikawa 2 and 1, Phil Mickelson/Jim Furyk beat Adam Scott/KT Kim 2 and 1 and Matt Kuchar/Steve Stricker were victorious 4 and 3 against Y.E. Yang/Robert Allenby.
For the Internationals, Aaron Baddeley/Jason Day beat Dustin Johnson/Tiger Woods 1-up. Geoff Ogilvy/K.J. Choi defeated Bill Haas/Nick Watney 1-up and Retief Goosen/Charl Schwartzel won 2 and 1 against Hunter Mahan/David Toms.
The temptation for impatience may be greater for the Internationals on Day 3 with five foursomes and five four-ball matches scheduled.
What will be especially interesting is how the Internationals fare in morning foursomes, an event the Americans not only won this year, but have dominated over the years since the Presidents Cup began.
Conceivably, the U.S. could be in control by mid-day if tradition holds, with the weather once again being the wild card for both teams with rain, thunderstorms and cooler temperatures expected.
Adjustment from the firm, fast conditions players from both sides have become used to will be necessary if the rain softens the golf course. Any delay in the proceedings due to storms could leave the Internationals thinking long and hard about the task ahead.
Pairings werenít available at press time, but at an event that seemed all about Woods earlier in the week, the Americans seem to be coming together as a team, even if Woods, the controversial captainís pick, is still winless.
Stricker, who took it on the chin with Woods in foursomes the first day, looked quite comfortable with Kuchar in their decisive win over Yang and Allenby.
Watson and Simpson are not only comfortable with one another, but theyíve provided the Americans with early wins after starting the proceedings for the U.S. each day, while Mickelson and Furyk have been solid with their 2-0 start.
The tough day ahead for the Internationals may go well beyond 11 on Normanís scale.
A SLOW GO
The combination of the weather and trying to figure out the nuances of Royal Melbourne made for a long and grinding day. The first match between Watson/Simpson and Els/Ishikawa took roughly two hours, 50 minutes to get to the turn, where the Americans were two-up. The entire day last just over seven hours ... Fred Couples insists his decision to split Woods and Stricker had nothing to do with the 7 and 6 smoking they took in foursomes against Adam Scott and K.J. Choi. It is true that he paired Tiger and Dustin Johnson in practice earlier in the week, but donít discount the lopsided loss as a motivation ... Els had a spectacular 8-3-1 four-ball record going into the second day, but seemed out of sorts playing with Ishikawa. If the Internationals are to make a run for it, theyíll need a veteran who shot a course record on this beast ... Royal Melbourne starts with a short par four, followed by a par five before running into a diabolical par three third, but neither team didnít seem to want to take advantage of the opening two holes. When the last match of Mahan/Toms went off against Goosen/Schwartzel, all matches were square with Mickelson/Furyk going one up against Scott/Kim about the same time.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE PAYS OFF
Thereís something to be said for local knowledge after Ogilvy, a Royal Melbourne member, sunk a shot out of the greenside bunker on the fifth hole to give him and Choi a 1 up lead against Haas and Watney. Ogilvy later played played about 20 feet of break off the front of the green to cozy it up to about four feet on the seventh ... Speaking of that, when is the last time you saw so many putts from off the green and when is the last time you saw so many players backing off putts as they were in yesterdayís four-ball? ... Royal Melbourne is providing a good example of why the Rules of Golf have declared that if a ball moves due to a gust of wind, there will be no penalty. However, that doesnít apply until next year ... What is clearly becoming the obvious characteristic of Royal Melbourne is the incredibly thin margin between an outstanding and disastrous shot ... Iím far from being a marketing expert, but it would be very interesting to hear TSNís explanation for running so many Presidents Cup promos during its telecast of the event. Havenít you already got us if weíre already watching? Just saying.