Americans take early control in Presidents Cup golf tournament

Dustin Johnson, left, and Matt Kuchar talk on the third hole during the Presidents Cup foursomes golf matches at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday. (AP photo)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The opening ceremony at the Presidents Cup was unlike any other in golf with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on the first tee.

The results were all too familiar.

The Americans led at some point in all five of the foursomes matches Thursday at Liberty National. They won the first three. And when they jumped on a ferry to take them across the New York Harbor to their Manhattan hotel, they had the lead.

Behind a new tandem of Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, and an old one of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, the Americans jumped out to a 3 1/2-1 1/2 lead. It was the sixth consecutive time they led after the opening session in an event they haven’t lost in two decades.

Thomas and Fowler lost only two holes in a 6-and-4 victory over Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel. Spieth and Reed improved to 6-1-2 as a tandem in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Spieth holed a 35-foot putt on the 11th hole right when it looked as if Emiliano Grillo and Si Woo Kim might gain some momentum. Instead, the match was over three holes later, 5 and 4.

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar remained unbeaten in four matches, not taking the lead until the 16th hole and making it stand in a 1-up victory over Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas.

Phil Mickelson, playing in his 23rd consecutive team competition, ended the tough, wind-swept afternoon at Liberty National by missing an 8-foot par putt, or the U.S. lead would have been even greater. He and Kevin Kisner were 1 down with two holes remaining to Jason Day and Marc Leishman, so a half-point wasn’t bad.

Mickelson’s only complaint was that he botched his selfie with the presidents.