The 2012 TOUR Championship began Thursday, September 20th, at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club. The field includes the top 30 in the season-long FedEx cup points standings, divided into 15 two-man pairings. Four of the first round matchups featured members of Team USA and Team Europe, in what could be a preview of next week's Ryder Cup competition. The results of those head-to-head contests follows:
Matt Kuchar vs. Luke Donald: Kuchar posted the better stroke play score, 67 to 71. When scored in match play format, his four birdies in the first twelve holes would have led him to a comfortable 3 and 2 victory over Donald. USA 1 - Europe 0.
Bubba Watson vs. Sergio Garcia: Both professionals posted stroke play scores of 69. In match play, however, Garcia's two shot advantage on the seventh hole (birdie to bogey) counted as only one hole, allowing Watson to claim a 1 up victory with Garcia's bogey at the 18th. USA 2 - Europe 0.
Dustin Johnson vs. Lee Westwood:Johnson's consistent 69 (two birdies and one bogey) was in stark contrast to Westwood's six birdie, eight bogey score of 72. Dustin Johnson's birdie at #16 would have closed out a strong 3 and 2 win. USA 3 - Europe 0.
Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy: At four-under 66, Woods is tied with Justin Rose for the overall lead, while McIlroy is three back at 69. The match between the current world #1 and #2 players would have been all square through 15 holes, with Woods' birdie at #16 leading to a close 1 up win. USA 4 - Europe 0.
Team USA would be very happy to do as well next week, when the 39th Ryder Cup is played at Medinah Country Club. For now, we can look forward to Tuesday's second round of the TOUR Championship, with three more USA vs. Europe pairings:
12:45 p.m. - Phil Mickelson vs. Rory McIlroy
12:55 p.m. - Dustin Johnson vs. Sergio Garcia
2:05 p.m. - Tiger Woods vs. Justin Rose
Harold Andrews has played golf for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest of all time.