Tiger Woods of the U.S. Team hits his tee shot on the second hole during the Day Two Four-Ball Matches of the 2011 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Course on November 18, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia
The United States recovered from a stunning collapse by Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to take a 4-2 lead in the Presidents Cup at the end of yesterday's opening foursomes as the nervous hosts stumbled late in the day.
Woods and former caddy Steve Williams had moved to defuse tensions following the Kiwi's recent racial slur, the pair shaking hands at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club's first tee on the opening day of the biennial tournament.
But the former world No. 1 and playing partner Stricker looked far from comfortable thereafter, as they crashed to a 7&6 loss to Australia's Adam Scott and South Korean KJ Choi.
The US made light of the pair's struggles, however, and it was their opponents who crumbled in front of packed galleries when the heat was on.
Having led in five of the six groups, the Australian-stacked Internationals faltered late in their rounds as their traditional weakness in foursomes came back to haunt them.
Their team trailing 3 1/2 points to 1 1/2, the final all-Australian pairing of Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day blew the chance to take the last point against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Baddeley burned the rim on a short putt that would have sealed the win on 17, then duffed his tee-shot into the right rough on the last as the nerves set in. Johnson calmly sank a six-footer to steal a half-point for the defending champions.
"Sometimes I know I feel probably worse than Aaron feels, because you know how he feels," Internationals captain Greg Norman told reporters.
"He hit one bad shot in 18 holes. If he looks back over it, all of the great putts he made and all of the great shots he hit, take all of those away from the day, don't take away that poor tee shot on 18."
The pairing of Australia's Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel were almost as profligate, surrendering a two-up lead in the last four holes to halve their match with Bill Haas and Nick Watney.
"Well, obviously, point-wise, we are more excited than we were an hour and a half before the day ended," US captain Fred Couples said.
"But that's happened before, and our guys fought hard."
Couples paid tribute to the grit his players displayed late in the day but would also have been delighted with the performance of his first pair, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
The Presidents Cup debutants were a model of composure as they hauled in Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa to give the United States a 1-0 lead.
The Americans quelled early jitters to come back from two-down after the first four holes and post an emphatic 4&2 win when Els conceded the match after missing a long birdie putt.
"I woke up this morning because I knew I was so nervous," 26-year-old Simpson said. "To be honest I was just thinking about the story of David and Goliath out there."