Nick Faldo and Gary Player gave the Rest of the World a winning start in the second UBS Warburg Cup at Sea Island, Georgia, today but it was the United States who raced into a 3 ½ - 2 ½ lead after the first day’s play over the superb Seaside Course.
Faldo and Rest of the World captain Player edged out US skipper Arnold Palmer and Curtis Strange on the last green of the opening foursome, after Strange had knocked his approach into the water.
However the Rest of the World missed an opportunity to build on that lead as the USA made a dramatic improvement on their start at Kiawah Island last year when they found themselves 4 ½ - 1 ½ down.
Tom Lehman and Ray Floyd beat Sam Torrance and Ian Woosnam by one hole, Tom Kite and Hale Irwin beat Rodger Davis and Stewart Ginn 3 and 2 while Mark O’Meara and Tom Watson overcame Barry Lane and Denis Durnian 2 and 1.
The Japanese combination of Isao Aoki and Seiji Ebihara then delivered an important point for the Rest of the World, beating Fred Funk and Bob Gilder 3 and 1 while Bernhard Langer and Eduardo Romero halved with Paul Azinger and Scott Hoch.
Torrance Woosnam suffered a disappointing one hole defeat to Lehman and Floyd. Europe's winning Ryder Cup skipper and his deputy made a brilliant start, forging into a two hole lead with birdies at the second and sixth.
The Americans hit back to win four holes between the seventh and 12th, but Lehman made some errors at the 13th, where he missed a tiny putt, and the 14th, where he pulled an approach into trouble, and the match was level with four to play.
But at the short 17th, Woosnam bunkered his tee shot, the hole was lost to a bogey four and a half in par at the 18th was good enough to award a US win.
"Obviously, It's really disappointing to lose, but we all played well," said Torrance."But we'll be ready to be up and at them on Saturday."
In the final match, Durnian and Lane were all square with six to play. But they lost the next two holes to pars and that was good enough to ensure the narrow lead for the defending champions.
Player admitted that the point secured by he and Faldo was critical so early in the match. He said: "That was an important win for us and I was really impressed with the improvement in Nick’s swing since last I saw him play.
"He’s a hard worker and always watches his diet and he exercises hard. He does everything that I have always preached. In this era if you don’t practice hard, don’t watch your diet and don’t exercise you get left behind."
Faldo praised his 66 year old captain, saying: "My partner was fantastic. He can still cut it. It was nice to get a win under our belts, especially having been three up early on. That would have been a bad one to lose."
Ebihara, who won the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit, was thrilled to make a winning start on his UBS Warburg Cup debut. He said: "I played with Fred Funk in the pro-am yesterday and he shot four under and I shot six over so when I saw the pairings I thought: no chance! But Isao told me that we were the dark horses and had nothing to lose so I relaxed and we played great golf."
Foursomes Results (US names first):
Arnold Palmer & Curtis Strange lost to Gary Player & Nick Faldo by one hole
Paul Azinger & Scott Hoch halved with Bernhard Langer & Eduardo Romero
Raymond Floyd & Tom Lehman beat Sam Torrance & Ian Woosnam by one hole
Fred Funk & Bob Gilder lost to Isao Aoki & Seiji Ebihara 3 and 1
Hale Irwin & Tom Kite beat Rodger Davis & Stewart Ginn 3 and 2
Tom Watson & Mark O’Meara beat Barry Lane & Denis Durnian 2 and 1
USA 3½ REST OF THE WORLD 2½
Fourball draw for Saturday:
Palmer & Watson v Player & Langer
Floyd & Lehman v Torrance & Woosnam
Funk & Gilder v Aoki & Ebihara
Strange & Irwin v Romero & Faldo
Kite & Hoch v Lane & Durnian
O'Meara & Azinger v Davis & Ginn