Presidents Cup: International Team retain lead after Team USA fightback
Written by News on 15/12/2019
The International Team will take a two-point lead into Sunday’s singles at the Presidents Cup after a dramatic finish to the third day at Royal Melbourne.
After the Internationals had extended their overnight lead to 9-5 by winning the morning fourballs 2.5-1.5, the Americans looked on course to level the match with an afternoon whitewash when they led in all four contests at one point on the back nine.
However, Abraham Ancer and Marc Leishman won the final three holes to snatch a half against Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas after being five down after seven holes, and Joaquin Niemann and Byeong Hun An also battled back to tie with Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar.
Team USA, therefore, won the session 3-1, but Ernie Els’ International Team lead 10-8 overall and need to claim 5.5 points from Sunday’s 12 singles if they are to lift the trophy, with Tiger Woods’ men requiring 7.5 points.
Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson secured Team USA their first point of the afternoon with a 2&1 victory over Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.
The match was all-square after 10 holes but Woodland and Johnson took command by winning both the 11th and 12th holes and, although Scott and Oosthuizen reduced the deficit at the 16th, a par at the 17th was good enough to wrap up the win for the Americans.
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele picked up another point for Team USA by defeating Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith 2&1 in a see-saw encounter.
Im and Smith were 3up after five holes, but the Americans won the next three holes to level the contest before the hosts regained the lead with a par at the 10th.
Cantlay and Schauffele found their form on the back nine, though, and won the 11th, 13th and 15th before sealing the win with a par for a half at the 17th.
Team USA captain Woods opted to rest himself for both of Saturday’s sessions and his decision to pair Thomas with Fowler instead looked set to pay dividends when they followed up their morning victory by racing into a 5up lead thru seven against Ancer and Leishman.
Ancer and Leishman began their stirring fightback with birdies at the 11th and 12th and they refused to throw in the towel as the Americans missed a number of chances to win the match, Ancer keeping the Internationals alive with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 15th.
A sensational finish then saw them win the final three holes – capped off with a birdie at the 18th after Thomas had driven into the trees – for a vital half-point which also ended Thomas’ four-match winning run this week and preserved Ancer’s own unbeaten record.
In the final match of the afternoon, Finau and Kuchar were 2up with five to play but Niemann and An won both the 14th and 15th before they halved the final three holes with both pairings missing shortish birdie putts at the 18th – An’s lipping out from seven feet – following superb approach shots.
Internationals win morning fourballs
The International Team had earlier extended their overnight advantage to four points after winning two of the morning fourballs and halving another.
Fowler and Thomas never trailed as they beat an out-of-sorts Leishman and Chinese debutant Li Haotong, who did not feature in the first two sessions, 3&2 in the first match to give Team USA a good start to the day.
However, Ancer and Im struck back for the Internationals as they defeated Cantlay and Schauffele 3&2 in the second match with the hosts never behind in this contest and Ancer playing a starring role as he rolled in some sublime putts.
Hideki Matsuyama and CT Pan reprised their successful day one collaboration to down Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson for a second time in the fourballs in the third match, easing to a 5&3 win.
Reed failed to make a single birdie, but Pan was in superb form as his 13-foot birdie at the first, an eagle at the fourth and a brilliant approach that hit the pin at the 12th put the hosts in control against an American pairing that were losing their third match of the week.
In the final fourball, Scott and An led until the 17th against Finau and Kuchar, but Finau holed a seven-foot birdie putt at the 18th to snatch a vital half point.
Canadian Adam Hadwin was rested for Saturday’s sessions by Els as he felt unwell due to a “bug”, but he is expected to be back in action in Sunday’s singles.
Watch the Presidents Cup singles live on Sky Sports Golf from 10pm on Saturday.
(c) Sky Sports 2019: Presidents Cup: International Team retain lead after Team USA fightback