Americans seize control in Presidents Cup
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The Presidents Cup has a familiar feel in so many ways.
Players leave every night in darkness and resume matches the next morning when it’s almost as dark. The rain never leaves, with another half-inch accumulating on top of a previous inch of rain that led to yet another delay Saturday.
And the International team is still trying to figure out what it has to do to beat the Americans.
When another long day ended at Muirfield Village, the Americans were assured of the lead going into the final round of singles matches. Zach Johnson took care of that with a wedge from 115 yards that disappeared into the cup for eagle on the 15th hole as he and Jason Dufner completed the only foursomes match of the day with a 4-and-3 victory.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar have done their part, winning every match they’ve played. Woods hit a fairway metal that plopped down 4 feet below the pin for an eagle that was conceded and a 2-up lead that allowed them to rally for a fourballs win earlier Saturday.
Woods and Kuchar were 2 down at the turn in their foursomes match against Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge when play was called.
“This guy is a horse — holy cow!” Kuchar said. “He played some incredible golf today.”
Still to be determined was how big the lead was going to be.
The other four matches were to be completed Sunday morning — weather permitting — and the Americans were leading 11½-6½. They were 2 up in one match, while the Internationals were 3 up and 2 up in two others. The fourth match was even, though momentum was on the American side.
“Well, it’s not over,” International captain Nick Price said. “We’ve still got a lot of golf to play tomorrow, and I have the utmost confidence in these guys that they can turn those two games around. We don’t want to go into the singles with too much of a deficit.”
Since the Presidents Cup began in 1994, no team has ever trailed going into singles and won outright. The Americans were three points behind in 2003 and rallied for that infamous tie in South Africa.
“The U.S. has really been unrelenting,” International captain Nick Price said. “They have just played superbly the last three days. Any slip from us and we find ourselves one or two down very quickly.”
The International team was doing well to stay in range until one session put it in a big hole.
The day began with the Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman coming up with big shots late for a 2-and-1 win, which enabled the Internationals to scratch out a 3-3 draw in foursomes that began on Friday.
But in fourballs, everything changed. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley made seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch to go from 2 down to a 2-and-1 win over Els and de Jonge.
And Woods and Kuchar were never in control of their match against Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama until Woods took over.
He hit an approach into 5 feet for birdie on the 13th, Kuchar finally made a putt with a 7-foot birdie on the 14th and Woods drilled that fairway metal into the 15th for eagle and a 2-up lead that was too much for the International side to overcome.
The Americans wound up going 4-1 in the fourballs scheduled for Saturday morning. It was the most lopsided session this week, but it was enough to make the International team face another tough climb if it wants to take home the gold cup it has won only one time — 15 years ago.
“We had close games that went the U.S. way,” Price said. “We’ve still got another 17 points left. That’s what I keep telling the guys. They’re a little down after what happened this morning.”
The lone International win in fourballs came from Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, who gave Stricker and Jordan Spieth their first loss. Stricker’s birdie on the 15th tied the match, but DeLaet stuffed his tee shot into 6 feet for birdie on the 16th for a lead they held.
Branden Grace and Richard Sterne have been shut out on the International side. Sterne and Leishman were 2 up through seven holes in the afternoon foursomes until Johnson and Dufner won six out of the next eight for another American point.