DUBLIN, OHIO -- The day didn't start off all that well for Graham DeLaet, but it sure had a fine finish.
The Canadian and partner Aussie Jason Day captured the first point of the competition for the International side Thursday, earning a 1-up victory over Americans Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan. It was one of two-and-a-half points the team from the rest of the world racked up after looking early on as if they were going to get slaughtered by their American competitors.
DeLaet made his Presidents Cup debut by teeing up his ball on the first hole, only to be told the Americans were away. He sheepishly pulled his tee out and slinked back to watch Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan hit their shots.
Chalk some of that up to confusion from officials and some to nerves. In fact, a lot to nerves.
"I've never been so nervous in my life," DeLaet admitted. "The only thing I can compare it to was when I was proposing to my wife."
When he did eventually strike his opening tee shot, it sailed smoothly down the hole and was followed by an iron to 12 feet, which he rolled in for a three and a 1-up lead.
"I don't know how I was able to make a birdie," stated DeLaet. "Because I could honestly barely feel my hands; my legs were shaking."
That lead was the only time Day and DeLaet were ahead on the front nine. In fact, it was the only time the entire International team was ahead for the first part of the day. As play unfolded, the Yanks seemed to make putt after putt and in the early going led all six matches. It appeared the rout was on.
DeLaet and Day were caught in the U.S. thrasher.
After that opening birdie, the American duo won four of the next five holes to go three up after six. The Internationals chipped away at the American lead, cutting it to 1-down but still looked far from comfortable.
In fact, International captain Nice Price came out to walk a few holes in the match, saying later he wanted to try and dial down DeLaet's emotional level because the Canadian was a little amped up.
While Price was helping all he could, he got a big assist from Mother Nature, who decided to step in at that point. Just when it appeared things were getting out of hand, she dumped a storm on Dublin, Ohio – it seems to happen whenever there's a golf tournament here – and sent both teams scurrying to their rooms to regroup.
Despite the dire situation, there was no rah-rah speech from the captain, no secret potions being quaffed. The message was all about biding their time.
"Mostly Pricey just told us to stay patient," DeLaet said of the rain delay conversation. "We were all playing well. The Americans were just making so many birdies. I think they told us they'd made 39 birdies before the delay. It wasn't that we were playing poorly but we just couldn't seem to get any momentum going."
That changed when the teams re-emerged for the second part of the day.
After halving the first few post-break holes, DeLaet reached the green in two on that long par-5 15th, winning it with a birdie. On the par-3 16th, he hit his shot to a foot and the birdie was conceded for a 1-up lead. On the 17th, he had a five-footer to guarantee a half but missed the putt. When Snedeker made his birdie the teams were tied playing the final hole.
After both Snedeker and Mahan missed the green, the International team had two putts for the win. DeLaet missed his 35-footer, but Day dropped his to ensure the victory.
"Honestly I had a feeling he was going to make it," said DeLaet, who jumped and then gave a vicious hand slap to his partner when the ball disappeared. "I don't even know what my reaction was or anything. I think I kind of blanked out there for about five seconds. Unbelieveable – my hand is still stinging from the high five."
"It was just a crazy day and I was super happy to get the win. We both played great – the Americans played great too. It was just a great match."
At the end of the day, the Internationals were trailing 3 ½ to 2 ½ but it was clear, after the early scare, the comeback was almost as good as winning the session. The International team sounded pleased, or perhaps relieved, not to have been wiped off the board.
Now it needs to try and solve the mystery of alternate shot, a format that hasn't been kind to it. The last time the Rest of the World squad won a foursomes session was in 2005. DeLaet and Day will once again be the first team to try and figure things out when they lead off against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
The betting is this time, DeLaet won't put his tee in the ground until it's his turn.