5 Things: Simpson-Watson not looking like rookies

Bubba Watson of the U.S. plays a tee shot on the 14th hole during the Day Three morning foursome matches at the 2011 Presidents Cup.

A look at five big storylines after the morning foursome session at Royal Melbourne. From the dominance by Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, to Tiger finally notching a point, there is plenty of buzz around the soggy course.

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LEAVE IT TO THE ROOKIES

The last time the Presidents Cup visited Royal Melbourne, the International team drew a huge boost from a surprise contributor: Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama posting a perfect 5-0 record.

This time around, through three sessions, it’s the U.S. that appears ready to head into Sunday with a commanding lead in hand, and two rookies have been huge factors. Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson teamed to lead the U.S. into each of its four team sessions, a move that has paid great dividends for captain Fred Couples.

Early Saturday, Simpson and Watson ran their record to 3-0 with a 3-and-2 foursomes triumph over Robert Allenby and Geoff Ogilvy. With the Internationals looking to build early momentum in sending off two Australians first, Simpson and Watson quickly quieted the party by making birdies on the opening two holes.

The match was all square through 11 holes, but Simpson and Watson never trailed. In fact, heading into Saturday four-balls, they had not trailed since the fifth hole of the opening foursomes. And the two have only had to play past the 16th green on one occasion.

“We’re enjoying it,” said Watson. “Who knows how many Presidents Cup we’re going to play in? … We know it’s a blessing to be here.”

Added Couples, "They are two incredible kids. You have one guy (Watson) that hits the ball a hundred miles and putts very well and then Webb is one of our most consistent players on the Tour the last year and a half, and they are showing it here. It's fun to see. It really is. They are two quality players. Totally different in games. But they get along very, very well.”

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TIGER GETS ON THE BOARD

Tiger Woods got routed Thursday, lost on Friday and playing alongside Dustin Johnson in Saturday morning foursomes, was 1 down through six holes, in danger of going 0-for-3 at Royal Melbourne.

Three times previously in representing the U.S. Woods had started a competition 0-2 (the 1999, 2002 and 2004 Ryder Cups), but never had he been shut out in his first three matches. Fortunately, he and Johnson would rally to defeat Adam Scott and K.J. Choi, 3 and 2. Woods and Johnson won the seventh and eighth holes with pars, the Internationals squared things with a birdie at 11, and then the U.S.sealed the much-needed triumph with wins at 14 (par) and 16, where Woods drained a 17-footer for a closing birdie. Woods wasn’t the only American in the group who direly needed a victory. Johnson, who was a rookie on last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team in Wales and is playing his first Presidents Cup, had been 0-4-1 in his first five team matches between Wales and Melbourne.

When Fred Couples made his Round 4 four-ball pairings, Woods still was in the midst of battling to win his match. Said Couples, "Is he pressing? I'm sure he is. He's trying his hardest like he always does."

Said Woods, “They gave us some pretty tricky pins out there, and (we) just had to be patient. I felt like Dustin and I were hitting the ball well, just keeping a lot of heat on them, and eventually one (putt) should fall. Unfortunately it was not ‘til the last hole (No. 16).

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ROUGH HOMECOMING

Few people looked forward to this Presidents Cup more than Robert Allenby, who grew up in Melbourne and first teed it up at Royal Melbourne when he was 12. While many of the 24 competitors are trying to cram in knowledge of one of the world’s trickiest courses over one week’s time, Allenby has played here more than 100 times. (Remember, the Presidents Cup uses a composite course from Royal Melbourne’s East and West tracks).

But through three days, it has not gone very well for the Aussie, who, along with Aaron Baddeley, was tabbed as a captain’s selection by Greg Norman. On Saturday morning Allenby slipped to 0-3 when he and Geoff Ogilvy lost to Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson, 3 and 2. The Aussies managed only two birdies, the last coming at the fifth hole. Then Norman delivered the news that Allenby would sit out Saturday’s afternoon four-ball session.

“At least we fought all the way, that’s for sure,” said Allenby. “I mean, Geoff and I are pretty good together. But I just don’t . . . I mean, you know, match play is such a fiddly game. You can play well and lose, and you can play bad and win. It’s just one of those things.”

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MELBOURNE'S 'REAL' HEATED MATCHUPS

As heated as things have been on the golf course, there has been playful intensity for the U.S. team away from Royal Melbourne with what has become a team tradition in Ryder and Presidents Cup play: ping-pong.

Phil Mickelson has been at or near the top of the U.S. ping-pong rankings for years – he even brings his own paddle to these events – but there’s a new sheriff in town these days: Matt Kuchar, a former standout tennis player. Mickelson said he has yet to beat him, and the two were slated to meet up in a big match Saturday night at team headquarters in Melbourne. “Matty Kuch has my number. I can't sneak by him. He's been so fun to have on the team though. He has my number on the pong table as well as off. He gives me more of a hard time than anybody and he's so funny, he does is it such a funny light; I enjoy being around him.”

Reports say Webb Simpson has made some noise on the table, too. He defeated Mickelson early in the week, but had yet to get past Kuchar, who even took on former tennis great Lleyton Hewitt this week, losing in a close match.

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BIG LEAD A GOOD OMEN

The five-point lead the U.S. took into the fourth team session (11-6) matched the second-biggest lead through three sessions in the nine-match history of the Presidents Cup. The U.S. team held a 12-5 advantage through three rounds at Royal Montreal in Canada on the way to victory in 2007.

The team leading after three sessions of the Presidents Cup never has lost. The only time the leader through sessions failed to win was in 2003, when the U.S. and International sides played to a 17-all tie in Fancourt, South Africa.

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