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Sammy steals the US spotlight at Presidents Cup
DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - The true media star of the first day of the Presidents Cup wasn't Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott.
World, meet Sammy. Sammy, this is the world.
U.S. captain's assistant Davis Love III started feeding a stray squirrel he found at the second hole at Muirfield Village and the two more or less became friends.
"He rode around with me today," Love said later, after the U.S. had taken a 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead after the opening day of the competition.
Love took the animal into the Americans' team meeting room and all of the American players took a liking to it.
Nicki Stricker, Steve's wife, named him, "Sammy."
As Love drove in an electric cart watching the four-ball matches, he had the squirrel riding along, sitting in his lap. It provided a surreal scene as the matches ground to dramatic conclusions and the score inched closer and closer.
He/she (no one knows for certain) became an unofficial mascot.
As the day came down to the final match, with Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge fighting on the final hole but falling short in a 1-down loss to Stricker and Jordan Spieth, the squirrel was in the middle of the American players and their wives and girlfriends who were watching the tense finish.
That's when Lindsey Vonn _ you may know her as a world-class skier or for her commercials and posters or for being Woods' girlfriend _ provided one of the most memorable images of the day.
While Woods stared from the hill near the 18th green, watching the action, Vonn playfully took the squirrel out of Love's right front pocket. She leaned behind Woods and carefully put the squirrel on his neck.
He didn't react for an instant, then, obviously annoyed, he tried to shrug the animal away while the rest of the American contingent _ including playing partner Matt Kuchar _ cracked up. The NBC cameras quickly returned to the action on the course.
"Tiger actually liked him," Love said. "And Lindsey loves him."
But it appears that Sammy has gone to a new home. Love was asked what happened to the mascot.
"He's going to visit Jack Hanna at the Columbus Zoo tomorrow," he said.
U.S. captain Fred Couples didn't know what to make of Sammy.
"I carry a rabbit's foot around," he said. "I don't know about a live squirrel."
AUSPICIOUS START: Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama made his first appearance in an international team competition and saved his best for the end.
He and teammate Adam Scott were 2 down with four holes left and 1 down on the final tee.
"Not that I was scared, but I knew that Adam was right behind me," Matsuyama said through an interpreter.
On the par-3 16th, he hit his iron to 11 feet and made the birdie to his pull him and Scott to all-square with Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, who had led most of the day.
After Haas birdied the 17th hole, the International duo had to win the 18th to avoid losing the entire point.
At the uphill closing hole, Matsuyama struck a 161-yard approach shot that he almost holed. His ball ended up 2 feet away and the birdie won the hole and halved the match.
"It was one of the best shots I've ever hit," the 21-year-old, first-year pro said.
In retrospect, he conceded that his first time playing in such a pressure-packed event affected him.
"I was really nervous today but playing with Adam helped," he said. "To get a half-point today, I was very happy."
IN THEIR CUPS: Couples is credited with coming up with the bright idea to recognize the veterans of team competitions by putting a Presidents Cup insignia on players' bags to represent each time they've participated.
Phil Mickelson has 10 (1994, '96, '98, 2000, '03, '05, '07, '11 and '13) on his bag, Woods eight (1998, 2000, '03, '05, '07, '09, '11 and '13), Stricker five (1996, 2007, '09, '11, '13), Hunter Mahan four (2007, '09, `011, '13), Zach Johnson three (2007, 2009, 2013), Webb Simpson, Kuchar and Bill Haas (two apiece, each in 2011 and `13) and rookies Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Jordan Spieth one each.
Mickelson is the only player on either team to have competed in all 10 editions of the Presidents Cup.
"I'm looking at Phil's bag and I counted 10," said Bradley, paired with Mickelson on Thursday. "I guess I just didn't realize. I go, `Is this your 10th Presidents Cup?' He kind of laughed and said yeah. That's an unbelievable accomplishment. That's 20 straight years and he's also played on every Ryder Cup team. That just shows he's been one of the most consistent players ever in this game."
Snedeker said he thought the whole thing was pretty cool.
"Phil and Tiger need a different bag, almost," he said.
HAIR BAND: International players Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel were kidded by teammates and foes alike for the drastic haircuts they got earlier in the week.
When a barber showed up at the team room, half the team got haircuts. Not necessarily great haircuts but, as almost buzzcuts.
"Louis and myself, we were guinea pigs," Schwartzel said. "He went first and basically lost all his hair. And then I figured I just needed a little touch-up on the sides, and I ended up losing all my hair. None of the other guys volunteered to go."
Making light of their shorn locks, the two four-ball partners showed up at the first tee with long, flowing wigs that went halfway down their backs.
"My wife found them while she was out shopping," Oosthuizen said, laughing. "I thought, `She we have a go at it?' Everyone knew about the haircuts and we had some fun with it."
The concept worked. Oosthuizen and Schwartzel ended up taking a 2-and-1 victory over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
TRADING SKIN: To the catalog of ways to celebrate a shot, you can now add the TigerMatt Slap. Or whatever they call it.
Each time teammates Woods and Kuchar hit a good shot or made a putt, they would trade a sidearmed five at waist height, then would pull their hands back while looking away from each other.
It was awkward and downright comical but they had plenty of opportunities to perfect it. In rolling over Angel Cabrera and de Jonge 5-and-4, they made eight birdies.
After the round, Kuchar joked that he came up with the move from watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which starred Will Smith in the first half of the 1990s.
Kuchar compared Woods to "Carlton," Smith's friend and foil on the show, played by Alfonso Ribeiro.
"I'm not a huge fan of bumping knuckles," Kuchar said. "Baseball high-fives look like a lot of run, but they're too complicated."
So he came up with the unorthodox celebration. It was a nice way to lighten the day.
"We really had a good time out there today," Kuchar said.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW? Inclement weather suspended play at 2:38 p.m. It resumed at 4 p.m.
It wasn't the first time _ far from it _ that rain, lightning, sleet, wind, snow or some other natural phenomenon has struck Muirfield Village.
A plague of locusts has yet to stop play. So far.
Over the Memorial Tournament's 38 years, 40 of the 150 rounds have been delayed, interrupted or canceled because of the elements.
MJ AT MVGC FOR PC: Among the fans and followers on hand for the Presidents Cup is six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan. He hobnobbed with the American players, visited with fans and watched the action.
"Michael Jordan is a friend of mine," Bradley said.
Asked if it freaked him out to say those words, he laughed and added, "Yeah, it's weird. But he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. Very helpful and a guy that a couple of us out here leaned on for some advice. Just wearing these (Michael Jordan design golf) shoes makes me a little cockier."
THE MONEY QUESTION: The players in the Presidents Cup are not paid for their participation. There is no purse and there is no prize money.
Instead, each player, captain and captain's assistant designates charities or golf-related projects of his choice to receive a portion of the funds raised through the staging of the event.
The charities specified by the 2013 participants will not be announced until later. Among those that benefited in 2001 were cancer support groups, wildlife relief funds, children's health and welfare associations, individual players' foundations, schools (Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech) and dozens of others.
More than $4.5 million was distributed to charities from the 2011 Presidents Cup.
LASTING RELATIONSHIP: Bill Haas said he was enthused about playing in the Presidents Cup, but also playing in the Presidents Cup with his good friend Webb Simpson as his partner.
"Obviously, the goal is to win the match, win the Cup _ all that," Haas said. "But down the road, Webb is a friend that I'm going to have my whole life. So it'll be certainly something we'll talk about for a long time."
They probably won't recount the last hole, which they lost while halving their match.
NOT AN OFF WEEK: Woods was asked what he did with his time away from the course last week.
"Chased a 4- and a 6-year-old," he said, referring to daughter Sam and son Charlie.
So, did you ever catch them?
"I'm taller," he said. "So, yeah."
DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus is unofficial host of this year's Presidents Cup. He likely will be again at the next one in 2015 at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea. ... Light rain fell off and on throughout Thursday's play. It's expected to be warm and sunny on Friday, but there's a chance of showers on Saturday afternoon. A cold front will drop the temperatures to the mid-70s with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. ... A reminder: There are 34 matches, so it takes 17 1/2 points to capture the Cup. ... A group of International fans were cheering and getting boisterous behind the ninth green as the first few groups came through when a lone fan of the U.S. side started loudly singing, "God Bless America." ... Bradley hit a male spectator in the head while trying to drive the par-4 14th. The man was helped by EMTs. ... Graham DeLaet lost the lucky quarter he uses to mark his ball, so he borrowed one from some International fans. ... The U.S. has led after the first day in seven of the 10 previous Cups. ... There are 11 players making their debut in the Presidents Cup, the most ever. ... With his victory alongside Kuchar, Woods now holds the record by himself for most Presidents Cup matches won with 21 (Jim Furyk had won 20).
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP
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