U.S. team builds 5-point lead in Presidents Cup Couples-Love takes pair from Norman-Allenby

September 14, 1996|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

LAKE MANASSAS, Va. -- The United States pairing of Fred Couples-Davis Love III hit the rival International team where it hurt the most during the first day of the Presidents Cup matches at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club yesterday.

The two Americans raised their record for this event to 4-0 by beating Greg Norman-Robert Allenby twice, 2 and 1 in the morning betterball and 1-up in the afternoon foursomes.

Theirs was the final match to be decided for the day. When Allenby missed a five-foot par putt for a half, the resulting point boosted the host nation to a 7 1/2 -2 1/2 lead, the same margin it held at this stage two years ago.

No more than one hole separated the teams throughout. Each time one side got a lead, the other would square it on the next hole. This happened five times, the last when the Australians won the 15th with a par.

Asked about how demoralizing that must be for the losers, Couples said, "Going up 18, it's all square. We didn't really know how. we weren't trying to figure out points, but we knew basically after Greg missed his, we could win by Davis making it or [Allenby] missing his.

"You lose, and that's another full point. There was a lot of pressure; I wouldn't have wanted it. He's a good player, and he played well.

"It's not like Davis and I are the best team for our side, but they had said they felt they were invincible. We asked to play them, and we went out first in the morning. If they had won then, their side might have gone out and won one or two others."

As it turned out, from a 4-1 morning advantage, U.S. rookies Kenny Perry and Justin Leonard padded that margin by getting the first point of the afternoon, getting 4 up through 14, and winning 3 and 2 over Nick Price (now 0-4-2 here) and David Frost.

Then Mark O'Meara and David Duval, the same age as Leonard at 24, brought in a 2-1 decision with birdies at 15 and 16 against Craig Parry-Frank Nobilo. The other three pairings were not determined until the 18th green.

Steve Elkington-Vijay Singh (both morning losers) birdied the 16th and 18th holes to thwart Tom Lehman-Steve Stricker.

It surprised team captain Arnold Palmer, who had seen his two play very well in a morning triumph.

Phil Mickelson and Corey Pavin wound up halving their match with Ernie Els and Mark McNulty. The Americans were 3-up after 10 but lost the next three holes, and the two sides halved the remaining five holes.

Speaking of the Norman-Allenby pairing, International team captain Peter Thomson said, "Well, it was unsuccessful wasn't it. Couples and Love played superbly. I don't know if anybody could have beaten them today.

"Our fellows were not putting well all day. They're having problems picking where to putt and how hard to hit it. I don't blame them, either, for these are unusually difficult greens because of the slopes."

Asked about any overconfidence by his players, Palmer, who turned 67 Tuesday, said, "I give them credit for being smarter than that. They are playing guys they know are good and all they need to do is miss a putt or make a mistake and it could be the turn in the whole match."

Pub Date: 9/14/96

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