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US leads by 1 after crazy day at Presidents Cup

Friday, October 04, 2013 - Updated: 8:36 AM

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) -- Everyone said that the International side needed to be more competitive to make the Presidents Cup a real rivalry.

It took an 82-minute rain delay and a huge comeback, but that's precisely what happened.

The U.S. put on an early show Thursday at Muirfield Village and then barely held on for a 3 1/2-2 1/2 lead on a day of dramatic momentum swings, scratch-your-head moments and laugh-out-loud visuals.

"Obviously, we were happy to get back to 2 1/2," International captain Nick Price said. "It would have been nice to be at 3-each, but compared to where we were on the front nine we made a great effort coming back."

Awkward celebratory hand slaps, big performances by the two youngest players, fright wigs and a pet squirrel all played a role in a day of craziness that might just go a long way toward enhancing the event in the public consciousness.

The U.S. charged out of the gate to lead in all six matches early. Officials put red on the leaderboard when the Americans lead and blue when the International side -- everyone in the world except for Europe -- is on top. In the first two hours of four-ball or better-ball, it looked like someone had splashed a couple of buckets of scarlet paint on the numbers.

Lead-off hitters Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker were 3-up through six holes on Jason Day -- an Aussie who is a member of Muirfield and lives maybe 15 miles away -- and partner Graham DeLaet.

Tiger Woods/Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas/Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner never trailed on the front side and appeared ready to all but lock up the Cup for the fifth straight time.

"We couldn't do anything wrong," said Fred Couples, who has played in four of these and won twice more as the U.S. captain. "There were so many birdies made, you really couldn't keep up."

Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel tried to lighten things up for the International side by showing up on the first tee wearing shoulder-length wigs. Earlier in the week, they had taken advantage of a barber who visited the team room -- and sheared away most of their hair.

Even their attempt at easing the tension didn't turn the tide.

Woods, the world's top-ranked player, seemed at ease with Kuchar, who won the Memorial Tournament last June at Muirfield. After each good shot or big putt, they would slap hands with a waist-high move, then pull their hands back and look away. Although they looked like they were more likely to hurt each other than to start a new way of high-fiving, they continued to put up birdies in what became an easy 5-and-4 rout of Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman.

But just when it appeared that the Internationals were getting a head start on falling to 1-8-1 in the biennial competition, the rains came. A powerful storm hit the course Jack Nicklaus built, causing an 82-minute suspension of play.

When the players returned, the Americans cooled off and things got interesting.

The International Hair Club for Men, Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, won three times in a four-hole span to transform a 2-down deficit into a lead. Then they traded clutch shots on the way to a 2-and-1 win over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.

     

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