By Steve Keating
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) -International captain Trevor Immelman vowed his men would fight to the final bell in the Presidents Cup but they were outclassed on Friday by the United States who dominated the fourballs by taking four of five points.
Following a 4-1 thrashing in Thursday’s foursomes (alternate shot) the Internationals returned to the Quail Hollow Club looking for a way to slow their rampaging opponents but had no answers as the U.S. increased their lead to 8-2 after two days.
“I wasn’t very good at math in school but there’s still 20 points available to win so we’re going to fight,” offered a defiant Immelman. “Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
“We feel like we’ve played some pretty good golf, some solid golf tee-to-green but we have absolutely been out-putted. No doubt about it.
“Back’s up against the wall. Going to have to dig deep.”
The Americans were again forced to fend off a late fightback by the Internationals that saw three of the five matches come down to the final hole but ended in the same 4-1 scoreline with the U.S. winning three and the other two finishing in ties.
The Internationals, with a record eight Presidents Cup debutants in their 12-man team, started as massive underdogs against a U.S. squad featuring nine of the top 15 players in the world rankings but now require some help from the golfing gods just to avoid a humiliating defeat.
The U.S. have dominated the biennial competition with an 11-1-1 record and are in position to register a Presidents Cup first – clinching the golden trophy on Saturday and making Sunday’s 12 singles matches nothing more than a victory lap for the hosts.
With two sessions scheduled for a marathon Saturday (foursomes and fourballs) the Americans will be targeting the 15 1/2 total points needed to lift the Cup for a 12th time and extend their unbeaten run on home soil.
“We have to keep the pedal to the metal and try to get as many points as we can, win each session,” said Jordan Spieth. “And every single person on our team that goes out tries to win a point.
” If we all do that, then it will be good enough.
“Get to 15 1/2 as quickly as you can.”
Sent out first by U.S. captain Davis Love III, major winners Spieth and Justin Thomas set the tone by taming the Australian duo of Adam Scott and Cam Davis 2&1 to get the U.S. on the scoreboard.
The day ended in an explosion of cheers from the pro-American crowd when Max Homa rolled in a 15-foot pressure-packed birdie putt on the 18th to save a 1-up victory for him and partner Billy Horschel over Canadian duo Corey Connors and Taylor Pendrith.
“I’ve been in the last match both days and to be able to see that is special for me,” said Homa. “The golf’s amazing, but you remember that kind of stuff well into your days.
“I was nervous as could be over that putt, but it was fun.”
Also earning a point for the U.S. were the stellar partnership of world numbers four and five Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, who hammered the Internationals most experienced pair of Scott and Hideki Matsuyama 6&5 in foursomes.
Picking up where they left off on Thursday, Cantlay and Schauffele charged to a 5-up lead on Matsuyama and South Korean Kim Joo-hyung after just eight holes but needed to work to close out a 3&2 win.
World number one Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, the only American pair to lose on Thursday, could not get in the win column but did earn the U.S. a half point when their match with South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Colombian Sebastian Munoz finished in a tie.
Kevin Kisner and Cameron Young also secured a half point for the U.S. as their match with Chile’s Mito Pereira and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished deadlocked.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Charlotte; Editing by Ken Ferris and Chris Reese)