Dublin, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Steve Stricker made a clutch par save on the 18th hole Thursday to give the United States a one-point lead over the International team after Day One at The Presidents Cup.
Stricker's halve on 18 gave him and Jordan Spieth a 1-up win over Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge, who had eight birdies in his first appearance in the event.
The Americans' lead was 3 1/2 points to 2 1/2.
"I would assess it that we rock-and-rolled early, the guys came out firing. The rain delay, obviously, helped the International team, which is fine," U.S. captain Fred Couples stated. "They played their hearts out. I watched several matches go here (to 18). Obviously, I couldn't be happier for Steve and Jordan to get that point. That was huge."
The U.S. led all six matches at one point. After a 1-hour, 22-minute weather delay, the Internationals fought back to gain all of their points in the first three matches out at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
"I think my team made a great effort there coming back. The U.S. team played absolutely unbelievable golf today. There were so many birdies," said International captain Nick Price. "Brendon de Jonge and Adam Scott were 8- under on their own ball. They played phenomenally well. I'm just so proud of how they brought it back."
The fifth match out -- Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar vs. Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman -- was the first to finish. Woods 2-putted for par on the 14th and when Cabrera failed to hole a birdie chip, the Americans led 1-0.
In the first match out, Jason Day poured in a 22-footer for birdie on the 18th to give him and Graham DeLaet a 1-up win over Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker.
Major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel earned a 2 & 1 win over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in the third match to give the International team a 2-1 lead.
Hideki Matsuyama stuffed his approach at the 18th to tap-in range. Neither Bill Haas nor Webb Simpson could match the birdie as Matsuyama and Masters winner Adam Scott rallied to halve the match.
With four matches completed, the Internationals led by a point. The final match on the course ended next when Zach Johnson was conceded a birdie putt on the 15th, giving him and Jason Dufner a 5 & 3 win over Branden Grace and Richard Sterne.
The fourth match to tee off was the last to finish. After the teams traded the first two holes, Stricker birdied the third and seventh to give the Americans a 2-up lead. De Jonge made one of his eight birdies at the 13th to trim the margin to 1-down.
Spieth answered at 14, but Els made his first birdie of the day on No. 17 to send the match to the 18th. With Spieth in the water off the tee, then short of the green with his third, it was all up to Stricker.
Stricker's approach was buried under the lip of a bunker, but he blasted to three feet and converted the par putt to match de Jonge's 2-putt par, and give the American team its 1-point lead.
"It was a little nerve-wracking," Stricker said of his bunker shot at 18. "The whole couple of holes. I told Jordan on 17, 'Let's finish it here, we don't want to go down 18. You never know what can happen.' I didn't hit a very good iron shot, but made a good up and down to finish it off."
"What a match! I think we had 14 birdies between the two of us, and they had what, 13? It was incredible," Spieth exclaimed. "You don't want anybody else to have to get that up and down other than Steve Stricker. What a match, I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Kuchar birdied the first. Woods converted a 9-footer for birdie at the sixth to move 2-up. After the weather delay, Leishman drained a birdie chance at the eighth to cut the deficit in half.
However, Kuchar answered at the ninth and Woods made two row at the 10th. Cabrera had a chance to halve the 10th, but missed. Woods and Kuchar converted back-to-back 8-foot birdie tries to go 5-up and when Cabrera failed to birdie the 14th, the match was over.
"We ham-and-egged it pretty good. Kuch made a bunch of putts on the front nine, then I got it rolling there for a little bit, and then on the back nine, it was him or me on each hole," Woods said. "We did pretty good."
DeLaet birdied the first from 12 feet out to five the Internationals a quick 1-up lead. However, Mahan and Snedeker took four of the next five holes with birdies to jump 3-up.
Day took the seventh and eighth with a birdie and a par to get within 1-down. DeLaet won 15 and 16 to grab a 1-up lead, but Snedeker answered with a birdie on 17. Day's birdie at the last gave them the match.
"It was important for us to get out to a good start and to try to set the momentum," stated Day. "We knew we had to stay patient. It was good to have that clutch birdie on the last hole."
Bradley's eagle putt on the seventh gave the Americans a 2-up lead, Oosthuizen took the eighth and Schwartzel squared the match with a tap-in birdie on the ninth. Oosthuizen gave the Internationals a 1-up lead with a birdie at 11, then Schwartzel closed out the match with a birdie at the 17th.
Simpson won the first, and Haas later claimed the eighth to give the Americans a 2-up lead. Scott erased that deficit by himself with birdies at the ninth and 11th.
Haas responded with birdies at 12 and 13, Scott chipped in for eagle on 15 and Matsuyama birdied the 16th to square the match. After Haas won the 17th with a birdie, Matsuyama forced a halve with a tap-in birdie at 18.
Johnson and Dufner combined to birdie four of the first six holes to go 4-up. Sterne took the seventh with a birdie and Grace birdied the 10th to trim margin to 2-down.
Dufner answered with a birdie at the 11th, while Johnson birdied the 14th to push their lead back to 4-up. With Grace out of the hole, Sterne blasted his fourth from a bunker, then conceded Johnson's birdie putt and the match.
NOTES: The weather delay was the first in this event since 2007 ... The U.S. has led after the first day in seven of the 10 Presidents Cup ... Friday's session will be foursomes, and the International team kept all six pairings the same, while the U.S. team changed two of their six pairings.