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Internationals and U.S. mainly keep faith with Cup pairings

International team captain Nick Price (L) poses next to the Presidents Cup with U.S. team captain Fred Couples before first round play begin
International team captain Nick Price (L) poses next to the Presidents Cup with U.S. team captain Fred Couples before first round play begin

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - The Internationals kept faith with the same combinations from Thursday's fourball matches while the United States made only a few minor tweaks for Friday's opening foursomes at the Presidents Cup.

With holders the U.S. leading by 3-1/2 points to 2-1/2 after the first day of the biennial team competition, the Internationals are under pressure to flourish in an alternate-shot format which has traditionally been their Achilles heel.

"It has generally been very hard for us in foursomes, it's the hardest format of the lot, without a doubt," Internationals captain Nick Price told reporters after he and his opposite number Fred Couples had announced their pairings for Friday.

"Alternate shot, you're playing basically half a round. But you know, the two guys, the teams, have to get on with each other and spur each other on. I can only do so much.

"We've got 12 wonderful ball-strikers. I'm not going to lose faith in those teams. I felt that they all played pretty well today. I've got confidence in our pairings, if some don't work well tomorrow, then we'll switch on Saturday a couple of them."

For the second day in a row, Price will send out Australian Jason Day and Canada's Graham DeLaet in the top match, and they will face Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in Friday's foursomes.

South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge take on Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan before South Africans Branden Grace and Richard Sterne meet veteran Steve Stricker and 20-year-old Cup rookie Jordan Spieth.

IN-FORM SOUTH AFRICANS

Argentina's Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman come up against Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker before in-form South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel face Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, who won their fourballs match 5&4 on Thursday.

Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia and 21-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama then play against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner in the bottom match at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

The only changes Couples made to his combinations for Friday's foursomes were to split up his fourball duo of Snedeker and Mahan, as well as Haas and Simpson.

"We changed a couple of teams, and to be honest, once you start changing more than one team, then it becomes a whole mix match of everybody," said Couples, who celebrated his 54th birthday on Thursday.

"We feel very comfortable with Phil and Keegan leading the pack early."

Asked whether he had been tempted to split up Mickelson and Bradley following their 2&1 fourball loss to Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, Couples replied: "They like to play with each other.

"They have a lot of energy, and we put them out first because that's what we want tomorrow. They were really, really doing well (early on against Oosthuizen and Schwartzel), and they played well in Chicago."

Mickelson and Bradley were unbeaten in three matches together in last year's Ryder Cup against Europe at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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