Sport

Presidents Cup: Late fightback keeps U.S. in the hunt

Unbridled joy: Justin Thomas, left, and Tiger Woods celebrate pulling off a narrow win in the foursomes.

Unbridled joy: Justin Thomas, left, and Tiger Woods celebrate pulling off a narrow win in the foursomes.   | Photo Credit: WILLIAM WEST

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Thomas and Cantlay drill huge putts on the 18th to clinch narrow victories

Tiger Woods’ USA staged a stirring late comeback to stay in the hunt at the Presidents Cup on Friday after the tournament appeared to be slipping away.

The USA went into the alternate shot or foursomes format on day two trailing 4-1, after Ernie Els’ Internationals enjoyed its best start to the biennial matchplay event since 2005.

The day ended at 6.5-3.5 for Internationals after the USA clawed its way back after Els’ young unit looked to be closing on a first victory since 1998.

At one point Internationals was ahead in all five matches, but Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay drilled huge putts on the 18th to clinch narrow victories.

Good omen

The omens looked good for Internationals in a heavyweight opening clash that pitted former World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar against the experienced Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott.

They started well, clinching the opening hole with Johnson driving off the tee then draining a birdie putt. Oosthuizen then missed a simple putt to hand the USA a two-up lead by the fifth, before the International pair began clicking to win the sixth and eighth.

They turned the screws as the crowd roared them on to win at the 11th, 13th and 14th and whip the dejected Americans 3 and 2.

Behind them Canada’s Adam Hadwin gave his team a lead on the first hole after a beautiful approach shot from young Chilean Joaquin Niemann against Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

See-saw tie

In a see-saw tie, the advantage kept changing hands before Cantlay stepped up to sink a massive pressure putt on the last to get the U.S. team on the scoreboard.

Inspired, Woods and Justin Thomas, the only US pair to win on Thursday, matched the exploits. Woods missed a birdie putt on the first but found his range and he and Thomas raced two-up through five against Hideki Matsuyama and An Byeong-hun, before Internationals incredibly won three in a row to be one-up by the eighth.

In a close match, it went to the wire where Thomas held his nerve to drain a long and difficult putt to secure the match, with Woods fist-pumping and hugging his teammate.

Patrick Reed was met with boos again on his opening hole after his penalty for improving his lie in the Bahamas last week. He appeared unfazed, making a birdie on the first with partner Webb Simpson before Australia’s Marc Leishman and impressive Mexican Abraham Ancer hit straight back on the second.

Internationals then took control, hitting the lead at the fifth and never relinquishing it to win 3 and 2, with Reed finally responding to barracking from fans, cupping a hand to his ear and making a digging motion with his putter at the 11th.

Monster putt

Australian debutant Cameron Smith sunk a monster birdie putt to put himself and partner Im Sung-jae one-up at the first against Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler. They also claimed the second hole and hung on until the 17th when the Americans levelled to claim a valuable half-point.

The results: Internationals leads USA 6.5-3.5 (Friday foursomes: Louis Oosthuizen & Adam Scott bt Dustin Johnson & Matt Kuchar 3 & 2; Adam Hadwin & Joaquin Niemann lost to Xander Schauffele & Patrick Cantlay 1-up; Marc Leishman & Abraham Ancer bt Webb Simpson & Patrick Reed 3 & 2; An Byeong-hun & Hideki Matsuyama lost to Tiger Woods & Justin Thomas 1-up; Im Sung-jae & Cameron Smith tied with Gary Woodland & Rickie Fowler).

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 5:58:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/presidents-cup-late-fightback-keeps-us-in-the-hunt/article30299693.ece

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