- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

GAINESVILLE, Va. Welcome to the Mauling of Lake Manassas.
Remember the Massacre in Melbourne? That was the title given to the last Presidents Cup after the Internationals undressed Uncle Sam's soldiers 20 1/2-11 1/2. The U.S. team obviously remembered its embarrassing 1998 trip Down Under. Yesterday the boys in red, white and blue took the first step toward returning the black-and-blue favor, sweeping the opening foursomes matches at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to take a 5-0 lead after the first day of competition.
"We're ready, and it showed today," said Phil Mickelson, who teamed with Tom Lehman to bury errant Aussies Greg Norman and Steve Elkington 5 and 4 in the day's opening match. "We certainly want to win and respond to the shellacking we took two years ago."
Few teams in the history of team match-play competition have authored such an opening statement. Recording the first foursomes sweep in the brief history of the Presidents Cup, the U.S. team dismissed lingering questions about its cohesion as every pairing U.S. captain Ken Venturi sent into the fray fused into a force.
Following the lead of Mickelson and Lehman, the stone-faced pairing of Hal Sutton and Jim Furyk gutted out a 1-up victory over best mates Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby. In the day's third match, Venturi found a surprise in the well-meshed marriage of Stewart Cink and Kirk Triplett. Playing the most compelling golf of the afternoon and riding Triplett's torrid putter, the U.S. rookies carded seven birdies en route to pasting Mike Weir and Retief Goosen 3 and 2.
"I set him up with some makeable putts, and he just drained them all," said Cink.
The day's marquee matchup, featuring the Cardinal Connection of world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Notah Begay vs. world No. 2 Ernie Els and Masters champion Vijay Singh, also provided it share of pyrotechnics. Though Singh's putting was as painfully comical as Quasimoto doing a dance recital, Els kept the pair close through 13 holes with his solid ball-striking. But at the par-5, 14th, a booming Woods drive and water-skirting Begay approach earned the U.S. team a two-putt birdie and a 1-up lead. Woods protected the slim margin with a fist-pumping 18-foot par putt at the 16th, sending most of the 22,000 fans on the property into hysteria.
"I felt so good when I stood over that putt," said Woods, who forced the U.S. team into the awkward, scrambling situation after his pulled approach left Begay virtually no chance to get his recovery pitch close. "That's one of the interesting things about playing alternate shot. You feel bad if you hit a bad shot. You feel guilty. Normally you feel bad for yourself and now you feel bad for your partner … But Notah hit a great shot, just put it on the green. And I told him the job was done; I'm going to make it."
Woods and Begay held on over the final two holes to give the U.S. a 4-0 advantage. David Duval and Davis Love then pulled out the broom in the day's final pairing against Nick Price and Carlos Franco. Duval and Love were just 1-under in the alternate shot format, but on a day when the entire International team made just two putts longer than 10 feet, that was just enough to complete a perfect afternoon for the United States, and a perfectly miserable one for the visiting dirtied dozen.
"We got whitewashed today," said Price after Duval and Love dispatched his pairing 1-up. "We have to make some points tomorrow, or it's going to be very anticlimactic on Saturday and Sunday."
Realistically speaking, the fourth Presidents Cup already qualifies as anticlimactic. Historically, U.S. teams have always had more problems in the foursomes than in either the four-balls or singles matches. The foursomes was supposed to be a European/ International equalizer in team match-play events. But yesterday the United States turned the foursomes into a demoralizer. On an even more futile note for the foreign contingent, the U.S. team not only answered questions about its chemistry yesterday, the high-fiving, fist-pumping enthusiasm of Woods and others resolved concerns about U.S. commitment.
"There has never been any doubt in my mind about my commitment or Phil's or Tiger's or Notah's or anybody on the team," said Lehman. "We're happy to be here and motivated to win. There's no place we would rather be than right here this week."
If the same U.S. team shows up for the next three days, RTJ is going to be the last place the Internationals want to be. Sure, there are still 27 matches to be played this week; that's plenty of available points for the Internationals to fashion a comeback. But starting with its rousing singles surge at last year's Ryder Cup and continuing through yesterday's relentless thrashing, the U.S. team seems to have emerged from its disturbing funk in match-play events.
Given that positive trend and a five-point margin, don't expect much suspense this week; expect a long-overdue demolition.

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