Obama, Clinton, and Bush reunite for start of Presidents Cup in New Jersey

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - The 12th Presidents Cup between the U.S. and an International team began in raucous but light-hearted fashion in front of the past three American presidents at Liberty National on Thursday with the national anthem immaculately observed.

A packed crowded in the grandstands surrounding the first tee warmly greeted Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, keen golfers all, who entered via a tunnel and took their seats to the right of the first tee.

Singer-songwriter Darius Rucker then sang the U.S. national anthem as the American team members stood about 50 yards away down the fairway, standing to attention with their hands across their hearts, not even a whiff of protest in the air.

Former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton attend 12th Presidents Cup

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Former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton attend 12th Presidents Cup
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Former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton attend 12th Presidents Cup
Sep 28, 2017; Jersey City, NJ, USA; Former U.S. Presidents (from Left) Barack Obama and George W. Bush and Bill Clinton smile during the first round foursomes match of The President's Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama pose for a selfie with Phil Mickelson of the U.S. Team during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama talk with Phil Mickelson of the U.S. Team during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former President Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
When you can take a selfie with three US Presidents, you do it!! https://t.co/E3pNlZ07gs
No caption needed @presidentscup
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Patrick Reed of the U.S. Team, Jordan Spieth of the U.S. Team, Si Woo Kim of South Korea and the International Team and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and the International Team pose with former presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former President Barack Obama shakes hands with Dustin Johnson of the U.S. Team during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Rickie Fowler of the U.S. Team and Justin Thomas of the U.S. Team and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and the International Team and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and the International Team pose with Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama pose during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Cheryl Lee and Mark Lee Jr., honoring Fire Captain Mark Lee Sr., of Engine Company 10 pose with Former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the trophy ceremony during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton pose with the U.S. Team wives and girlfriends during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Adam Scott of Australia and the International Team on the frist tee during Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former President Barack Obama shakes hands with Jordan Spieth of the U.S. Team during the trophy presentation during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton pose with the International Team wives and girlfriends during the first round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017, in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: Captain's assistant Tiger Woods of the U.S. Team speaks to former U.S. President Barack Obama on the first tee during Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: (L-R) Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama attend the trophy presentation prior to Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: (L-R) Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama attend the trophy presentation prior to Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28: (L-R) Former U.S. President Barack Obama, Former U.S. President George W. Bush and former U.S. President Bill Clinton attend the trophy presentation prior to Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The scene was far removed from the controversy at National Football League games recently, in which many players have protested during the national anthem against racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

American veteran Phil Mickelson then stole the show by walking over and shaking hands with the three former presidents and taking a selfie.

Ceremonies over, it was down to golf, with the U.S. defending the Presidents Cup against an International team of players from the rest of the world, excluding Europe.

South African Charl Schwartzel had the honor of hitting the first shot in the opening foursomes match, in which he partnered Japan's Hideki Matsuyama against Americans Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

A group of about 40 International 'fanatics' -- mainly Australians and South Africans supporting the visiting team -- mischievously chanted: 'Justin, you've got two first names, Justin you've got two first names' as Thomas stood on the tee.

Obama, after shaking hundreds of hands and having a long chat with U.S. assistant captain Tiger Woods, departed after the third match started but Bush and Clinton stayed until the end.

Clinton even had a few words with the media after the last match had teed off, talking about the difficultly of the first hole and the best way to play it in a strong wind.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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