SAN FRANCISCO --- Ernie Els spoke to the state of the Presidents Cup when he sized up the pairings for the opening session at Harding Park and spelled out a best-case scenario for the International team.
"If we can get out tied tomorrow," he said, "I think we've had a great day."
That was a step up from his previous assessment -- anything better than its last start would be an improvement. Two years ago at Royal Montreal, the Americans didn't lose a match on the opening day in building a five-point lead, and the cup effectively was over.
Then again, it's been that way for more than a decade.
The International team shows up with mighty credentials -- some believe it is the best team of a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup -- yet it rarely goes home with the gold trophy. Its only victory came 11 years ago in Australia. It has never won on American soil.
Perhaps that will change in the role as underdogs.
"Maybe it will take the pressure off us," Retief Goosen said. "And we can just go play."
The eighth edition of the Presidents Cup begins today with six foursomes matches that were put together by captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman.
It starts with Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim going against Tim Clark and Mike Weir. Bringing up the rear is Goosen and PGA champion Y.E. Yang against Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk.
Perhaps the most compelling match is Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker against Geoff Ogilvy and 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, the youngest player in the history of this event, and the player with more victories than anyone on the International team over the past year.
Ishikawa is used to the commotion. He played with Woods and Lee Westwood the first two days of the British Open.
"They are going to be very strong," Ishikawa said. "But golf is a game that you just never know what will happen. I'm going to do my best and play hard until the end, and hopefully we can come out victorious."