December 13, 2019 / 7:08 AM / a month ago

Internationals ready to 'bite back', says captain Els

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Internationals were left to rue what might have been after a late U.S. fightback in the Presidents Cup foursomes kept them nipping at their heels on Friday but captain Ernie Els says his rookie-laden team are ready to bite back on a pivotal day three.

Having dominated the fourballs 4-1 on Thursday, the Internationals led in all five of the foursomes matches on day two but were ultimately held to a 6.5-3.5 lead due to some brilliant putting on the 18th hole by the Americans.

“It’s perspective, isn’t it? I’ve got to look at where we are. It’s easy to just look at where we could have been, because it was looking really unbelievable,” South African Els said.

“But we’re in a very good position.”

Els said Friday’s late twist was the nature of the event.

“Sometimes it bites you. Put a spear in it and bite back,” he added.

“This was probably good for (my players), showing what can happen the last couple holes.

“Saying that, we’re in the lead.”

The alternate shot format has been the Internationals’ traditional Achilles heel but Els’ outfit came out firing at Royal Melbourne to claim the first two matches, extending their lead to 6-1.

It took a 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th by Patrick Cant lay to clinch the United States’ first point of the day, as he and Dander Schaeffer hung tough for a 1-up win.

Justin Thomas, paired with captain Tiger Woods, then rolled in a 17-foot putt at the last to sink Hide Matsuyama and An Byeong-hun 1-up.

In the fifth and final match, Vickie Fowler drained a clutch five-foot putt for par on the 18th as he and Gary Woodland split a point with Cameron Smith and Imp Sung-jae.

The Americans will head into Saturday’s morning fourballs with the momentum but the Internationals will still be buoyed by their position, having not been in front after day two of the biennial event since 2005.

With four afternoon foursomes matches staged on Saturday, eight points are up for grabs, meaning day three could make or break the Internationals’ hopes of ending their losing streak at seven successive Presidents Cups.

“The Americans played wonderfully on the 18th hole and all credit to them,” said Els.

“They stuck to it and they grinded it. My guys learnt a lot from this afternoon. We won’t make this happen again.

“But saying that, they played great birdies, great shots, and that’s why they are champions.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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