Jersey City (United States) (AFP) – The Presidents Cup teed off in apt style on Thursday, with former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton the center of attention on the first tee.
Their appearance marked the first time that three US presidents have attended the biennial match play tournament between the United States and an International team, inaugurated in 1994.
Golfers — including 12-time Presidents Cup player Phil Mickelson — took advantage of the unique moment with Mickelson making his way to the tee nearly an hour before his scheduled start to shake hands and grab a selfie with the presidents.
US team captain Steve Stricker has cautioned that his players can’t afford to be complacent if they want to extend their dominance in the event.
The Americans have won nine of 11 prior editions, with one draw in 2003 and the lone International victory coming back in 1998.
“My message to my players is that I don’t really care what’s happened the last 11 Cups or how many we’ve played,” Stricker said. “We’re here for what’s going on this week and to take care of business this week and not worry about that.”
But things were looking good early for the hosts, who won the tournament by one point in 2015 in Incheon, South Korea.
By the time the last of the day’s five foursomes matches was through one hole, the US were up in four of the contests on the course.
The opening ceremony on the first tee included a solemn presentation of the Presidents Cup and “The Star Spangled Banner” sung by Darius Rucker.
There was no sign of any silent demonstrations during the anthem of the kind launched by some NFL players in protest at racial inequality.
Those demonstrations have been harshly criticized by current US President Donald Trump.
Trump could lend yet more presidential pomp to the proceedings this week if, as expected, he attends on Sunday.