There was no miraculous comeback, no historic collapse. The International team did not even chip away at the American lead on Saturday at the Presidents Cup. Team USA has absolutely dominated the entire week at Liberty National, opening up a 14 1/2-3 1/2 lead, putting it just one point away from clinching the cup heading into Sunday’s singles matches.
After nearly sweeping the morning session, the Americans showed no signs of letting up in the afternoon four-ball matches, with captain Steve Stricker sending out Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed first. International team captain Nick Price countered with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen, who took a 1 up lead on the first hole. But Reed and Spieth took charge, making birdies at the second, fifth, eighth and ninth holes to take a 2 up lead.
Birdies at 10 and 11, plus a messy rules situation at the 12th, saw the International team take back its 1 up lead. Once again, Spieth and Reed took over, winning the 15th, 16th and 17th to win the match 2 & 1. They are now 8-1-3 as a duo in their Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup careers.
“For some reason, it just works,” Reed said. “We go out, we mesh, and it seems like I always get off to the hot start and he just kind of picks it up the rest of the way and I usually finish pretty strong.”
In the match behind them, Hideki Matsuyama and Jhonattan Vegas started strong, taking a 3 up lead through four holes against Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger. That lead quickly vanished, highlighted by a 32-foot birdie putt by Berger at the par-3 10th that sent the home crowd into a frenzy and got the match to all square. The momentum proved to be too much for the Internationals, who were closed out, 3 & 2, at the par-3 16th hole.
Soon after, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who never trailed in their match against Branden Grace and Marc Leishman, would also close it out with a 3 & 2 victory at the par-3 16th. This gave the US a 14 1/2-2 1/2 lead, meaning one full point from the final match would be all it needs to retain the cup.
Fortunately for the International team, Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim rallied against Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, coming back from 1 down through 14 holes to win the match 1 up at the 18th, and avoid being closed out before Sunday.
“We obviously wanted to end that today,” Hoffman said. “We knew what was on our shoulders. I didn’t have my best stuff all day long, but I had a chance. Got to give it up to Lahiri, he made some great birdies coming down the stretch and they knocked us off.”
The play of Lahiri has kept the Internationals hopes alive for one more day, but it will take a heroic comeback. They trail by 11 points, with 12 singles matches left to play.