Johnson, Dufner take a break, then pick up point
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — They split two matches, then reluctantly took a break.
Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner came back with a vengeance in a 4-and-3 foursomes victory over the International side’s Richard Sterne and Marc Leishman on Saturday evening at the Presidents Cup.
It was a win that might have meant a lot more than just a point to the Americans.
“Zach and Duf, to flip that match around, it seems like it flipped a couple other matches our way,” United States captain Fred Couples said.
The win — capped by the most memorable shot of the day — gave the United States an 11½-6½ lead in the rain-plagued competition with four other foursomes matches left to be decided early Sunday morning.
Then the 12 singles matches will get under way, weather permitting.
Dufner, the PGA Championship winner, and Johnson, a former U.S. Masters champion, rolled to a lopsided 5-and-3 win over Sterne and Branden Grace in their opening fourballs match Thursday. But they lost 2 and 1 in Friday’s foursomes to Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott.
Couples and his assistants made the decision to give them both a rest in the next round.
“We saved them for the alternate shot,” Couples said. “Obviously, the hardest thing is to sit someone and that’s just the choice we made.”
It proved to be a good one based on how they played on Saturday afternoon. They were 2-down through seven holes but then won at the ninth, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes to close out the victory.
Johnson needed an IV to get fluids after suffering a bout of the flu earlier this week. He didn’t travel to Ohio with a couple of teammates because he was so ill he didn’t think he could make the trip and didn’t want to make anyone else sick.
Instead, he spent almost 48 hours in bed, doing his best to recover quickly in time to play.
The morning off, and the thrill of competition, did wonders. Well, and something else.
“I had a massive plate of Mexican (food),” he said, smiling. “So I’m feeling good right now.”
YES, HE DID: As Adam Scott walked down the first fairway prior to his Saturday afternoon foursomes match, a fan yelled out, “Raise your hand if you’ve won a major this year!”
Scott, who captured the U.S. Masters for his first major championship, flashed a smile at the spectator and then proudly raised his arm as high as possible.
THE FORECAST: The release from the tournament meteorologist said the following about Sunday’s weather: “Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms in the morning, becoming a steady moderate to heavy rain late Sunday afternoon into Sunday night. Chance of precipitation: 100 percent late in the day. ”
PGA Tour officials announced that the gates will open at 6:30 a.m. EDT (1030 GMT) Sunday, with the remaining fourth-round foursome matches resuming at 7:35 a.m. EDT (1135 GMT). The captains will make their singles pairings at around 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), with the singles matches set to get under way starting at 9:10 a.m. EDT (1310 GMT).
Tournament director Steve Carman said the conditions have required give and take by everyone — particularly the captains who have a short turnaround time from the time they make the singles pairings until the matches head to the first tee.
″(The captains) understand the situation and we need to try to play as quick as we can,” he said. “We tried to the pairings meeting as close to the tee times as possible. That’s 40 minutes. By the time they finish (the remaining foursomes matches) we’ll probably have 25 minutes to get to the first tee to get things organized for that first match.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Couples on a long day on the links: “It seems like they have been out here for six days playing and grinding.”
DRAWING A BYE: After fighting through grueling conditions in the morning fourballs matches, the captains made some minor changes before the afternoon foursomes got started.
The International side’s Nick Price benched Branden Grace and Angel Cabrera, while Couples rested Hunter Mahan and rookie Jordan Spieth.
Grace, who is 0-3 with two of the losses being lopsided, was hardly a surprise to be held back. He’s the only one of the 24 players who has yet to collect a point.
Cabrera, however, was a huge surprise, even though he was a part of just one winning side in his three matches. Long off the tee and with a gentle touch around the greens, he was considered along with Adam Scott and Ernie Els to be one of the cornerstones of the International team. That’s the kind of respect you gain when you win two major championships, the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters.
But the Argentine player is 44 years old and it was a long slog through the muck at Muirfield Village, which is not an easy walk even on a dry track. Captain Nick Price said he was sore and would undergo physical therapy to loosen up before the singles matches on Sunday.
“This was tough for everyone today, this rain,” Price said. “The guys are tired. I think they are all tired.”
Mahan is 1-2, losing with Brandt Snedeker in the opening match and with Bill Haas in the rain-delayed foursomes on Friday and Saturday. Along with Snedeker, he ground out a 2-up win over Louis Oosthueizen and Charl Schwartzel in the lengthy third-round fourballs match earlier on Saturday.
Spieth and Steve Stricker won their first two matches, but Spieth had been somewhat shaky even then. When he and Stricker lost 2-up to Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, it seemed a natural to sit him out.
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