Sammy steals the US spotlight at Presidents Cup
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The true media star of the first day of the Presidents Cup wasn’t Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott.
World, meet Sammy.
U.S. captain’s assistant Davis Love III started feeding a stray squirrel he found at the second hole at Muirfield Village and the two more or less became friends.
“He rode around with me today,” Love said later, after the U.S. had taken a 3½-2½ lead after the opening day of the competition.
Nicki Stricker, Steve’s wife, named the squirrel “Sammy.”
As Love drove in an electric cart watching the four-ball matches, he had the squirrel riding along, sitting in his lap. It provided a surreal scene as the matches ground to dramatic conclusions.
As the day came down to the final match, with Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge contending on the final hole but falling short in a 1-down loss to Stricker and Jordan Spieth, the squirrel was in the middle of the American players and their wives and girlfriends who were watching the tense finish.
That’s when Lindsey Vonn — the world-class skier who is dating Woods — provided one of the most memorable images of the day.
While Woods stared from the hill near the 18th green, Vonn playfully took the squirrel out of Love’s right front pocket. She leaned behind Woods and carefully put the squirrel on his neck.
He didn’t react for an instant, then, obviously annoyed, he tried to shrug the animal away while the rest of the American contingent — including playing partner Matt Kuchar — cracked up.
“Tiger actually liked him,” Love said. “And Lindsey loves him.”
But it appears that Sammy has gone to a new home. Love was asked what happened to the mascot.
“He’s going to visit Jack Hanna at the Columbus Zoo tomorrow,” he said.
U.S. captain Fred Couples didn’t know what to make of Sammy.
“I carry a rabbit’s foot around,” he said. “I don’t know about a live squirrel.”
AUSPICIOUS START: Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama made his first appearance in an international team competition and saved his best for the end.
He and teammate Adam Scott were 2 down with four holes left and 1 down on the final tee.
“Not that I was scared, but I knew that Adam was right behind me,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter.
On the par-3 16th, he hit his iron to 11 feet and made the birdie to his pull him and Scott to all-square with Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, who had led most of the day.
After Haas birdied the 17th hole, the International duo had to win the 18th to avoid losing the entire point.
At the uphill closing hole, Matsuyama struck a 161-yard approach shot that he almost holed. His ball ended up 2 feet away and the birdie won the hole and halved the match.
“It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” the 21-year-old, first-year pro said.
In retrospect, he conceded that his first time playing in such a pressure-packed event affected him.
“I was really nervous today but playing with Adam helped,” he said. “To get a half-point today, I was very happy.”
HAIR BAND: International players Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel were kidded by teammates and foes alike for the drastic haircuts they got earlier in the week.
When a barber showed up at the team room, half the team got haircuts. Not necessarily great haircuts but, as almost buzzcuts.
“Louis and myself, we were guinea pigs,” Schwartzel said. “He went first and basically lost all his hair. And then I figured I just needed a little touch-up on the sides, and I ended up losing all my hair. None of the other guys volunteered to go.”
Making light of their shorn locks, the two four-ball partners showed up at the first tee with long, flowing wigs that went halfway down their backs.
“My wife found them while she was out shopping,” Oosthuizen said, laughing. “I thought, ‘She we have a go at it?’ Everyone knew about the haircuts and we had some fun with it.”
The concept worked. Oosthuizen and Schwartzel ended up taking a 2-and-1 victory over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
THE MONEY QUESTION: The players in the Presidents Cup are not paid for their participation. There is no purse and there is no prize money.
Instead, each player, captain and captain’s assistant designates charities or golf-related projects of his choice to receive a portion of the funds raised through the staging of the event.
The charities specified by the 2013 participants will not be announced until later. Among those that benefited in 2001 were cancer support groups, wildlife relief funds, children’s health and welfare associations, individual players’ foundations, schools (Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech) and dozens of others.
More than $4.5 million was distributed to charities from the 2011 Presidents Cup.
DIVOTS: Jack Nicklaus is unofficial host of this year’s Presidents Cup. He likely will be again at the next one in 2015 at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea. ... Light rain fell off and on throughout Thursday’s play. It’s expected to be warm and sunny on Friday, but there’s a chance of showers on Saturday afternoon. ... A reminder: There are 34 matches, so it takes 17½ points to capture the Cup. ... There are 11 players making their debut in the Presidents Cup, the most ever. ... With his victory alongside Kuchar, Woods now holds the record by himself for most Presidents Cup matches won with 21 (Jim Furyk had won 20).