Presidents Cup 2019: Clutch birdies give rallying USA momentum in late fightback

By Sacha Pisani 13 December 2019 18
Presidents Cup 2019: Clutch birdies give rallying USA momentum in late fightback

The Internationals stayed ahead in the second session at the Presidents Cup, but the United States salvaged 2.5 points to shift the momentum in Melbourne.

Ernie Els' Internationals threatened to sweep all five foursomes at one stage on Friday before defending champions the USA rallied to win two of the final three matchups.

Clutch birdies from Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas ensured Tiger Woods' team ended the day only 6.5 - 3.5 adrift at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Only once in history has a team come from behind after two sessions to win the Presidents Cup – the USA in 2005 when they trailed 6.5 - 5.5 and won 18.5 - 15.5 in Virginia.

Leading 4-1 following Thursday's four-ball, the Internationals looked on track to secure another four points in their bid to claim a first Presidents Cup title since 1998.

After Dustin Johnson's flawless foursomes record at the Presidents Cup was ended in a 3 and 2 loss alongside Matt Kuchar against Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen, the Internationals stretched their lead to 5-1.

While another 3 and 2 victory – this time for Abraham Ancer and Marc Leishman over Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson – secured one more point for the International team, Cantlay's late heroics inspired a USA fightback.

The clash between Cantlay/Xander Schauffele and Joaquin Niemann/Adam Hadwin was tied from the 15th hole until the former birdied the par-four 18th.

That sensational 1up win had a knock-on effect for seven-time reigning champions the USA as captain Woods and Thomas added another point in dramatic fashion.

Level through 17 against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An, Woods set up Thomas for the chance to win the match and he held his nerve to drain a memorable long-range birdie – sparking celebrations.

That result saw 15-time major champion Woods equal Phil Mickelson's record for most matches won at the Presidents Cup with 26.

With the USA on a roll, Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland also battled in the fifth and final contest to halve their match against Cameron Smith and Im Sung-jae.

Fowler and Woodland had trailed from the opening hole but a clutch birdie putt – set up by Woodland's approach – tied things up through 17 against Smith and Im before pars at the last.

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Sacha Pisani

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