US rally to stall Internationals’ advance at Presidents Cup

December 14, 2019

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MELBOURNE: Tiger Woods of the US chips onto the green during the second day of the Presidents Cup on Friday.—AFP
MELBOURNE: Tiger Woods of the US chips onto the green during the second day of the Presidents Cup on Friday.—AFP

MELBOURNE: The United States conjured up some magic moments on the 18th green to fight back in Friday’s foursomes and hold the Internationals to a 6.5-3.5 lead after Ernie Els’ team threatened to deliver a decisive blow at the Presidents Cup.

The Americans, trailing in all five matches at one point, dug deep at Royal Melbourne to share the day two honours, with captain Tiger Woods and his playing partner Justin Thomas leading the way once again.

Woods and Thomas were the only pair to score for the United States in the opening fourballs on Thursday and returned to claim a vital point in a 1-up win over Hideki Matsuyama and An Byeong-hun.

Thomas rolled in a 17-foot putt on the 18th to secure the win and celebrated wildly before being wrapped in a bear-hug by Woods.

“I’m speechless, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of big putts and hit a lot of big shots,” said Thomas. “But to do it with my captain and unbelievable team mate to win the match, hopefully turn the tide of this Presidents Cup is awesome.”

The pulsating day ended with the points split — two wins each and one tie.

With 30 points at stake over the week, the Internationals need another nine from Saturday’s eight matches and the 12 singles on Sunday for a famous victory.

“At one point it looked pretty bleak, but the guys turned it around. They played phenomenal coming in,” said Woods. “It was important for us to end the way we did and it totally changed the last hour.

“The energy has been there,” he added. “These guys are all young and extremely excited about being a part of this team. I think more than anything, it’s just getting a feel for this golf course. It is fast.”

Earlier, Patrick Cantlay, teamed up with Xander Schauffele, rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th to claim a 1-up win over Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann.

Rickie Fowler capped the stirring US fightback with a clutch putt for par on 18 to clinch a half-point against Cameron Smith and Im Sung-jae.

Until that final hour, the Internationals appeared set to extend their lead and give themselves a huge chance of ending a run of seven successive losses in the event.

Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen got the ball rolling for the Internationals as they came back from two holes down to secure a 3&2 win over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Mexican debutant Ancer and Australian Marc Leishman then combined to continue Patrick Reed’s forgettable Presidents Cup as they swotted aside ‘Captain America’ and Webb Simpson 3&2.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019