Commentary

Give U.S. slight edge in Sat. foursomes

Originally Published: October 9, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Day 2 four-ball sessions came to a close here at the Presidents Cup, U.S. captain Fred Couples offered a wish of which he was also in command.

"We don't want to change up the alternate shot pairings at all," he said.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that three of the five Saturday morning pairings are reprisals from Thursday, as Couples kept the teams of Justin Leonard-Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry-Zach Johnson intact.

Turns out International captain Greg Norman had the same idea, keeping three of his alternate shot twosomes intact, as Ernie Els-Adam Scott, Robert Allenby-Vijay Singh and Mike Weir-Tim Clark will tee it up together in this format again.

If there is any shocking revelation regarding the foursomes matches, perhaps it is that the third session at Harding Park Golf Course will be without three major champions and one of the game's up-and-coming stars, as Couples elected to sit reigning U.S. Open champ Lucas Glover and young stud Anthony Kim and Norman will bench Masters winner Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy, the No. 10 player in the world.

Each will return to the course for Saturday afternoon's four-ball matches, but they'll be relegated to rooting on teammates early in the day. Let's break down exactly what those four will be watching, giving an edge to one team in each match.

International team flagInternational Team:
Retief Goosen/Camilo Villegas
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Phil Mickelson/Sean O'Hair
Match Status: Begins 10:45 a.m. ET
Match preview: In the opening foursomes match, Mickelson put Kim on his back and carried him to victory. In four-ball, he did the same with Leonard for much of the day, earning another full point.

With O'Hair, however, Lefty might be up against his biggest challenge yet. This is a rookie who lost money to de facto assistant captain Michael Jordan early in the week and has looked out of sorts ever since, failing to record a single birdie on Friday afternoon. Against another duo, the U.S. might not have the edge, but the team of Goosen and Villegas seems like a mismatch in personalities and styles, a strategy that could prove faulty in the long run.

Advantage: U.S.
--Jason Sobel
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Ernie Els/Adam Scott
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Justin Leonard/Jim Furyk
Match Status: Begins at 10:55 a.m. ET
Match preview: In one of two matchups involving a pair of repeat foursomes duos, don't be surprised to see this one go the distance. On Thursday, Leonard was left with a 3-footer to win the match when -- after Goosen nearly conceded the putt, only to realize his confusion -- he missed it to drop into a halve.

Els and Scott, meanwhile, played off one another nicely in the opening session. The latter has looked both very good and very bad at times in the first two days, but the Big Easy's influence might help to instill some confidence in his game again. Tough one to call, maybe the toughest of the morning.

Advantage: International
--Jason Sobel
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Robert Allenby/Vijay Singh
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Stewart Cink/Hunter Mahan
Match Status: Begins 11:05 a.m. ET
Match preview: Talk about a dichotomy in performance and results. For the most part, Cink has been on his game for the opening two days, but he has failed to get much help from two-time partner Glover, resulting in a pair of losses that went the distance.

Singh, on the other hand, has yet to play his best golf but has been buoyed by teammates en route to a 2-0-0 record so far. So it only makes sense that Cink has nowhere to go but down and Singh has nowhere to go but up. That's right -- expect the big Fijian to turn things around and even start holing a few putts as he strives to earn a third point in this one.

Advantage: International
--Jason Sobel
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Mike Weir/Tim Clark
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Tiger Woods/Steve Stricker
Match Status: Begins 11:15 a.m. ET
Match preview: When asked whether he would separate the world's first- and third-ranked players rather than pairing them for a third straight match, Couples said, "Not unless somebody ties me up and I can't get to the pairings."

Nobody did and he didn't, so the team of Stricker and Woods will continue on -- and for good reason. In 29 holes so far this week, these two have won 12 of 'em, halved 16 others and lost just one. The only downside is that neither has seen the final three holes since a Wednesday practice round, though there's a good chance they might not get there in this one, either, as Clark and Weir got steamrolled in their opening foursomes match together.

Advantage: U.S.
--Jason Sobel
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Y.E. Yang/Ryo Ishikawa
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Kenny Perry/Zach Johnson
Match Status: Begins 11:25 a.m. ET
Match preview: Little Zach is all growed up.

OK, so the truth is, the former Masters champ has been a very good player for a few years now, but it seems as if Johnson has taken a leap to become one of the United States' most dependable competitors. Expect his 49-year-old partner to feel a little weary in the morning, but experience could pay off against the two International rookies.

In Friday's four-ball match, Ishikawa and Yang looked terrific, but alternate shot is a format not often used on the pro level, so don't be surprised if they're still getting the hang of things.

Advantage: U.S.
--Jason Sobel
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.