MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tiger Woods’ Presidents Cup debut at Royal Melbourne in 1998 was soured by the United States’ only defeat to the Internationals in the biennial tournament’s 25-year history.
Twenty-one years later, Woods’ debut as U.S. captain got off to a horror start at the same course on Thursday as Ernie Els’s Internationals drew inspiration from the 1998 victors.
The Internationals roared to a 4-1 lead after the opening fourball matches, pumped up by a motivational video featuring players from the Peter Thomson-captained team that claimed a 20.5-11.5 win over the U.S. at the sandbelt course.
Apart from Els, Thomson’s Internationals featured other Hall of Fame players including Greg Norman, Vijay Singh and Nick Price.
Their tips on how to beat the U.S. at Royal Melbourne proved invaluable on day one.
Taking inspiration from the video, a fired-up Abraham Ancer teamed with Louis Oosthuizen to rout Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland 4&3.
“It pumped me up, man,” debutant Ancer, the first Mexican to play for the Internationals, said after a stellar first round.
“It gave me chills ... I even watched it again before going to bed. Kind of just kept me in mind of what you want to feel out here and it was awesome.”
Proven Presidents Cup performer Oosthuizen had never played Royal Melbourne until this week but the South African charged out of the blocks with three birdies in his opening five holes.
“It was great to see the guys in ‘98 giving us a bit of advice and how it felt for them starting the week back then, and what it feels like winning a Cup,” he told reporters.
“We have a few boys of ‘98 in the team room, as well, and I think we are in a really good place.”
With seven tournament debutants, the current Internationals lack the star power of the 1998 team, and boast only Adam Scott in the world’s top 20 players.
A bigger challenge looms on Friday as they confront their demons in the foursomes, their traditional Achilles heel.
The Internationals have not finished with a winning record in the foursomes since 1998 and were thrashed 7-2 in the format at Liberty National, New Jersey, two years ago.
Els was thrilled with the team spirit on day one but warned there was a long way to go while urging the polite Royal Melbourne crowd to be a bit more boisterous.
“It’s a good start,” he said.
“We’ve got a long event to go still, and you know, we’re loving the golf course.
“We’d like to get the crowd a little bit louder on our side. It was a little quiet out there today, but hopefully they get going tomorrow.”
Editing by Clarence Fernandez & Shri Navaratnam