South African pair give outsiders a leg-up early in four-ball matches.
Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel began the Presidents Cup wearing silly wigs to cover up bad haircuts and ended Thursday’s four-ball matches with the last laugh.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, and 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel defeated reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley 2 and 1.
As a result, the Internationals, who led in no matches when a storm delay struck, only trailed the United States 3 1/2-2 1/2 entering Friday’s foursomes at Muirfield Village.
“Compared to where we were on the front nine, we made a great effort coming back,” said Internationals captain Nick Price, who kept his same pairings for Friday.
“I’m not going to lose faith in those teams. I think they are all ready to take their games to the next level.”
The Americans, who lead the overall rivalry 7-1-1, had not won a four-ball session since 2003 but the global golfers turned a potential disaster into a fightback after the delay.
“Everyone is focused on what we want to achieve,” said Oosthuizen. “It was good to get a little bit of a break to realize we have to go out there and take it from them.”
The tense finish, which saw Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge miss a 15-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have halved his match and left the teams level, was a sharp contrast to when the South African duo reached the first tee in curly blonde and brunette women’s wigs.
“My wife phoned me this morning saying she was in one of those wig shops and there’s two wigs, should we have a go?” Oosthuizen said. “I said, ‘Yeah, bring it.’
“Everyone knows about the funny haircut experience we had so I thought it would be a good thing to show everyone we actually love to wear some wigs.”
US captain Fred Couples cracked a smile, saying, “That was pretty fun on the first tee. Those haircuts they got, even though they didn’t like them, sure looked better than those wigs.”
Despite the gag, “Oosty” took the golf very seriously.
“The point was huge for us,” he said. “Me and Charl were really pumped. We wanted to get that win. We knew it would get us going and we were really focused.”
They will be called on in Friday’s alternate-shot foursomes to face world number one Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, the reigning champion at the Memorial, the US PGA event played at Muirfield Village.
Aussie Jason Day, a Muirfield Village member who lives nearby, sank a 15-foot putt at 18 to give himself and Graham DeLaet a 1-up win over Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan after being 3-down through six holes.
“I just knew if I could give myself a putt on the 18th green that I’ve played here enough to know where the breaks are,” Day said. “Moments like that are why you practice so hard.”
Day and DeLaet get Mickelson and Bradley on Friday.
Reigning Masters champion Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama halved with Bill Haas and Webb Simpson after the Japanese 21-year-old birdied two of the last three holes, including the half-point clincher at the 18th.
“It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” Matsuyama said. “Not that I was scared but I knew Adam was following me and if I missed I knew he would hold me up.”
Scott said the storm delay might have slowed a hot US lineup as much as it helped the Internationals.
“We weren’t going to gain momentum but we might have stopped theirs a little bit,” he said. “Timely break. Let us creep back in at the end of the day.”
But foursomes is format that the Internationals have struggled with for years, not winning such a session since 2005.
“Everyone is feeling pretty confident after this afternoon,” Scott said. “If we can win the session tomorrow, then it’s back to level and we might have an advantage and get momentum going our way.”