FOR a brief moment it looked like Tim Cahill had arrived to save Australia yet again.
The superstar Socceroo, and new Melburnian, found himself following Aussie duo Marc Leishman and Adam Scott on the back nine, just as they were in need of some help.
EARLY PROBLEMS: Aussies have bad day at office
World Cup woe Cahill, scorer of so many Aussie goals at just the right time, stood greenside as Scott made a crucial putt for par on the 12th hole after he flew the green with his approach minutes earlier, before the football star’s arrival.
Then the pair of Aussie sporting heroes chatted briefly on the 15th tee, before Leishman stuck his shot close and Scott walked up and nailed the putt for the home team’s only birdie of the day.
But after Scott teed off just in to the right rough on the 16th, Cahill cut his way back to the clubhouse.
And as if on cue, Leishman shanked the Aussie team’s next shot and his approach landed closer to the ninth pin, way down the back of the big double green.
It was that sort of day for Team Australia, who, sent on their way by dual World Cup winner Peter Thomson on the first tee, never at any stage got their game going.
On the front nine Scott missed both par three greens off the tee, and by the time he sent his approach to 12 sailing over the back, from wedge distance, he thought Leishman may have had enough.
“There were a couple of little looks over when I am flying him over a couple of the greens. I think after the third one he was pretty much over playing from the back,” a sheepish Scott said post-round.
“Nothing really went our way.”
Or more specifically, Leishman’s way. Before Scott nailed an approach to the seventh close, and then hit a mammoth drive on the eighth, he was running at about two out of 10, performance wise.
It was a breezy day, gusting from the south, the sort of wind that can grabbed lofted balls and stop them in their tracks.
That’s what the Aussie pair found themselves contending with. Used to hitting the sand belt in late spring when northerlies and hot temperatures bake greens hard, their usual ploy of lobbing approach shots short and running them to the flag didn’t work.
“It’s different playing this course when it’s so soft,” Leishman said.
It was peculiar that they were bettered so often by their American opponents, whose strategy was different, holding back off the tee on so many holes.
Local knowledge was supposed to hold the Aussies in good stead this week. But there’s knowing, and there’s doing.
Team USA presumably knew less than their Aussie opponents, but their doing was much better.
Their less is more strategy paid dividends and even though they spent more time in the sand than the Dakar Rally, they taught the home team a lesson.
“That’s what’s fun about this place is you’ve got options and it’s however you want to play.”
The Americans had fun, and Leishman smiled his way through his post-round analysis, adamant there was no sense of doom and gloom for he and Scott.
But he did suggest a positive to take from Thursday was that he didn’t swallow a fly, and they were out in their thousands.
It was that sort of day.