The Internationals kept themselves in the Presidents Cup hunt by winning their first session of the match on Saturday afternoon.
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It is still a tall order for Trevor Immelman’s Internationals, but an 11-7 deficit is not insurmountable in the race to 15.5
The USA’s strong position at Quail Hollow was built to a large extent on the partnerships of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
For the former, it was another cruise on Saturday afternoon as they took care of Hideki Matsuyama and Taylor Pendrith 4&3 for a fourth win from as many outings.
Day 3 Fourballs: USA 1 (11) – 3 (7) Internationals
- Patrick Cantlay / Xander Schauffele 1Up Si Woo Kim / Tom Kim
- Justin Thomas / Jordan Spieth 4&3 Hideki Matsuyama / Taylor Pendrith
- Tony Finau / Kevin Kisner 3&2 Sungjae Im / Sebastian Munoz
- Billy Horschel / Sam Burns 1Up Adam Scott / Cam Davis
Matsuyama put on a clinic in iron play early in the second match, but the Japanese missed two short putts to put Spieth and Thomas under pressure – and from the moment the Americans got in front on the third hole, the result was never in doubt.
The 15th has been kind to Spieth this week, as he twice made great escapes as his ball landed in the water only to hit a rock and bounce out each time, and it was appropriate he closed out the win when chipping in for a birdie.
“When I first started out on teams, I am sure Jordan agrees, it was clear as day who the leaders were and we were doing as they said,” Thomas said. “I just feel everybody is so experienced on this team and we are like ‘we are here if you want us’ but everybody is just good at golf and we let them go.”
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Cantlay and Schauffele were rested on Saturday morning, and they looked a little off colour in the afternoon – with Schauffele struggling after finding the water on seven.
Tom Kim is a future superstar, if he is not one already, and he showed he is made for the biggest stage by taking out Cantlay and Schauffele alongside Si Woo Kim.
Cantlay and Schauffele did not have their best games on Saturday, but looked set to get out of the match with a point when the latter holed a putt from off the green on 15.
But Tom Kim produced a moment of rare brilliance on 18. After holing big putts earlier in the day, he arrowed a two-iron from 234 yards to 15 feet and rolled in the left-to-righter to spark wild celebrations.
“I am trying to bring energy to the team,” Tom Kim said. “I feel that is the least I can do for the team.
“I want to get the crowd going. We are on American soil and it is not easy for us Internationals, so I am trying to use it as my energy and motivation.
“I have thrown a lot of fist bumps this week. It is amazing.”
Sungjae Im and Sebastian Munoz played excellently in Friday’s fourballs to tie with Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
They were even more impressive in the same format on Saturday afternoon, as they took out Tony Finau and Kevin Kisner 3&2.
Im does not know how to fire away from flags, no matter the danger. The key shot was his approach to three feet over the water on 15, while Munoz contributed with a number of impressive putts in a dominant display. In their two matches they were 18-under for 34 holes.
The scoreline might not have reflected it, but the matches earlier in the week were tight and the final game on Saturday was another to go the distance.
Sam Burns and Billy Horschel looked set to secure the point when leading with four to play, but Cam Davis eagled 16 and birdied 17 to turn the match on its head.
All four threw darts at the target on 18, with Burns’ approach landing an inch from the cup, but Davis rolled in another birdie putt to close out the match.
“It is huge,” Scott said. “This afternoon, this morning even just hanging in there. This afternoon we got some momentum, it’s something we have not had all week and we have got a little bit. Let’s get a hot start tomorrow.”
There is much ground to make up for the Internationals, but momentum is on their side and strange things can happen in team golf. Miracle at Medinah, anyone?
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