CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Patrick Cantlay was walking up the first hole at Quail Hollow in the Presidents Cup and said to his caddie Matt Minister that playing as a team with his American partner Xander Schauffele provided a level of comfort in a format where players essentially hit half the shots.
After all, he and Schauffele have become a dangerous tandem not to be messed with in the last three international team competitions and are regular Tuesday practice-round partners when they play the same events and willing to take on all comers in money matches. Not to mention that they won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in late April, the lone two-man team event in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup regular season.
“We’ve now played so many times we feel so comfortable,” Cantlay said. “I said to my caddie on the first hole that even though it is alternate shot it feels totally normal. I think that’s an advantage for us in that format.”
Xander Schauffele (left) and Patrick Cantlay (right) hold up the Zurich Classic trophy and belts after winning the final round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans golf tournament. (Photo: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)
In the first of five foursomes matches (also known as alternate-shot) contested on Thursday for the Presidents Cup, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele of Team USA pounded Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott 6 and 5. It marked the second-earliest finish to a match in Presidents Cup history.
“I told the guys last night we need to set the tone,” Schauffele said, “and we did. Playing this format on a day like today and not making any bogeys, it’s exactly what we need.”
The dynamic duo for the U.S. improved to a perfect 3-0 in foursomes at the Presidents Cup – 5-0 including the Ryder Cup – to put the first point on the board. Cantlay-Schauffele grabbed the lead with a par at the third. It took five holes for the American side to make a birdie but once the seal was broken the U.S poured it on with three birdies in a row to open a 4-up lead. The Internationals won its only hole of the day at the short par-4 eighth when Schauffele rimmed out his birdie putt.
The International team had a chance to cut into its deficit when Matsuyama stuck his tee shot to six feet at No. 10, but Scott missed the putt. That took the wind out of the sails of the International side as they bogeyed the final three holes.
“You always expect your opponent to come back strong. We got lucky there on 10. That could’ve been a big one that they missed, and we used that as momentum to finish off this match,” Cantlay said.
The pairing of Cantlay and Schauffele was the brainchild of assistant captain Fred Couples, who watched the two Presidents Cup rookies play gin on the 26-hour flight from the Bahamas to Australia in 2019 and told then U.S. Captain Tiger Woods he sensed the making of a winning combination.
“They just play really good, smart, strategic golf and they’ve become best friends so what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Couples, the former Masters champion and three-time winning U.S Presidents Cup captain asked rhetorically. “They lose.”
But at last year’s Ryder Cup and again on Thursday, all they do is win. They have become an automatic pairing, which U.S. Captain Davis Love III was wise enough not to overthink. Asked to describe the conversation with Love about teaming with Cantlay again, Schauffele said, “It was kind of like, I’m assuming you want to do this. If that’s cool with you guys, we’re just going to run it back. So it was sort of a very chill conversation, nothing too serious.”
It was another disappointing start for Scott, who fell to 7-9-2 in foursomes. The 42-year-old Australian who is making his 10th appearance in the biennial team competition is still seeking his first win. (The match ended in a tie in 2003.)
“Can you imagine? It sucks to lose these things,” said fellow Aussie Geoff Ogilvy, an assistant captain for the International team, who called Scott the captain of the players. “They’re all leaning on him. He just wants to win it for everybody. It’s like he wants to win it for everybody who never got a chance to win one.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek