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It's Getting Late Early for the Internationals, Who Need to Toss Out the Game Plan

Veterans Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama were demolished in the day's first match and it didn't get much better after that. So what does captain Trevor Immelman do now?
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Taylor Pendrith reacts after missing a par putt on the 18th hole in Day 1 of the 2022 Presidents Cup.

Taylor Pendrith's missed par putt at 18, sealing a loss in the opening day's last match, mirrored much of the day for the International team. 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As Canadian Taylor Pendrith missed his par putt on the 18th hole in the final match to lose 1 up, it capped a USA tsunami with chants of "USA-USA-USA," the cherry on top of the home side winning four of the five matches and taking a statement 4-1 lead after Thursday’s foursomes at the Quail Hollow Club.

The International team has been given the underdog label, largely for their overall recording in this event and then losing British Open champion Cam Smith, Louis Oosthuizen, Joaquin Niemann and Abraham Ancer to LIV Golf. The four stalwarts had played on the team in 2019 at Royal Melbourne and were critical in getting the Internationals to a 10-8 lead going into Sunday singles.

With eight rookies on this squad, Captain Trevor Immelman had few places to go for help and when his two best veteran players Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama were boat-raced 6 and 5 by the impressive duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in the first match. The Internationals are 1-11-1 in this event and odds of improving that record this week are diminishing.

“We have no other choice, we're going to keep fighting. It's what we do. It's the type of mentality that this team has," Immelman said after making his pairings for Friday’s fourball. "So, you know, we'll regroup.”

Regroup?

It seems odd to think that a team that consists of eight rookies can regroup when the two veterans, the backbone of your team, struggled to get out of the gate.

So goes Matsuyama and Scott, so goes this team.

If you’re Immelman, you had to believe that when you chose them to lead the matches out on Thursday, they would be the bellwether for the Internationals and not record three consecutive bogeys at the end to lose their match.

Cantlay and Schauffele clearly understood the importance of their position.

“So, when we went out first, we—Pat (Cantlay) sent a text out last night to J.T. and Jordan, being the lead two matches, saying let's try to set a tone,” Schauffele said. “That's what Pat and I talked about yesterday, and that's what we tried to do today. “

Cantlay knew beating Scott and Matsuyama was about more than garnering a point, but setting a tone which was hard for the Internationals to come back from.

“Going out first, there's a real advantage to trying to get red up on the board as early as possible,” Cantlay said. “I think it just gets everyone a little more comfortable and inspires them to just follow suit.”

Which the USA accomplished in three of the ensuing four matches.

Oddly, it wasn’t USA firepower that made the difference on Thursday, since the side had only three more holes under par than the Internationals, but it was the consistency in making only seven bogeys to 18 for the Internationals.

Match play is all about staying in holes and not giving holes away, but making your opponent earn them. That didn’t come through on Thursday for the Internationals.

With 83 holes contested on Thursday, the USA led for 62 holes and the Internationals 3.

“The message has stayed the same, message is play free,” Immelman said after the 4-to-1 drubbing. “Nobody here expects us to win. We've got to have that belief deep down. Go out there and fight. We're up against maybe the strongest American team ever assembled on paper. So, we do what we do. We run our system. We get ready and prepare, and we play as hard as we can. Chips will fall where they may.”

Hopefully Immelman was joking. The message can’t stay the same. Just like in football, if the first half looked like a train wreck, the coach tosses the game plan and goes into damage control mode.

Immelman has time, since 25 points still at stake, but it won't help if he is unwilling to look in the mirror and realize that he needs to shake it up.

The Immelman-speak on Thursday night is the traditional drivel that past captains Nick Price, Greg Norman and Gary Player used as they saw their teams go 0-8-1.

The four-ball format is a more comfortable one for the Internationals, so expect some renewed vigor, but if the USA comes out with more than 2.5 points, it may be time for golf fans to look at the football listings for Saturday and Sunday because this supposed competition will barely be worthy of an exhibition.

More Presidents Cup Coverage

> Foursomes Continue to Plague International Team As U.S. Takes 4-1 Lead in Presidents Cup
> Day 2 Pairings at Quail Hollow
> Live Updates: U.S. Takes 4-1 Lead over Internationals
>
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