The 4-1 start in Thursday’s four-ball matches was good, but the International side today validated their fine foundation by delivering a split result in the tough-to-decipher foursomes format to earn a 6.5-3.5 lead after two days of the 2019 Presidents Cup.
Still, there was a sense of an opportunity lost. At one stage, the International side led all five matches, then two contents that could have gone either way – or been halved – both went the Americans’ way on the home hole. What shaped as a potential 9-1 or 8-2 lead for the Internationals is now a closer margin.
Yet given the Internationals’ horrific foursomes record, combined with their 4-1 result in yesterday’s four-balls, a 2.5-all split probably feels like a victory of sorts.
Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott took six holes to claim a hole against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar but dominated the second nine of their match to win 3&2. Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer won seven of the 16 holes they played to oust Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed by the same margin. In a match with never more than a hole in it, Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann were unlucky to lose, succumbing on the 18th green after Patrick Cantlay holed a curling downhill birdie putt to seal an important American point alongside Xander Schauffele. The exact same script unfolded when Justin Thomas holed an identical putt on 18 to give he and Tiger Woods the point against Byeong Hun An and Hideki Matsuyama. Sungjae Im had a chance to turn the tables with a 12-footer on 18 playing alongside Cameron Smith, before they halved their match against Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler.
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Internationals captain Ernie Els was more glass-half-full after the round, giving credit to the American side’s finishing skills but preferring to point to the overall scoreboard.
“They played well at the end there; Tiger and [Justin Thomas] won the last hole and won their match and Patrick Cantlay made a great putt to win the last,” Els said. “Look at the record we’ve had in the foursomes the past 25 years. For us to come out 2.5 to 2.5 for the session is like a win for us. We would have taken that at the start of the day.”
Tomorrow shapes as the day when the Internationals’ pairings system and palpable camaraderie will be tested most. With eight points on offer across the two pairs formats, there is a chance for the home side to build a commanding lead ahead of the singles matches on Sunday. Conversely, there is ample opportunity for the momentum the Americans built late today to carry over.
Friday’s Foursomes matches:
Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott (INT) def. Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar (USA) 3&2
Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA) def. Adam Hadwin/Joaquin Niemann (INT) 1 up
Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer (INT) def. Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed (USA) 3&2
Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods (USA) def. Byeong Hun An/Hideki Matsuyama (INT) 1 up
Sungjae Im/Cameron Smith (INT) halved Gary Woodland/Rickie Fowler (USA)
Internationals 6.5, USA 3.5
Saturday’s Four-ball matches:
Marc Leishman/Haotong Li (INT) vs Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler (USA)
Sungjae Im/Abraham Ancer (INT) vs Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA)
Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan (INT) vs Patrick Reed/Webb Simpson (USA)
Adam Scott/Byeong Hun An (INT) vs Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau (USA)