JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - The United States were threatening to run away with another Presidents Cup after a four-ball rout on Friday that left a International team reeling and searching for answers.
Under the gaze of the Statue of Liberty, the United States have been domineering hosts, winning four of five four-ball matches and halving the other surging to a 8-2 lead to the delight of a giddy home crowd at Liberty National.
The United States have won nine of 11 Presidents Cups, including the last six and if the International team, comprised of players from the rest of the world except Europe, are to end the drought they will have to overturn the biggest U.S. advantage ever after Day Two of the biennial competition.
So complete has been the United States dominance that they can clinch the Cup on Saturday, leaving Sunday’s singles nothing more than dead rubbers.
With both foursomes and four-ball action scheduled for Saturday, the United States need to collect 7.5 points from a possible eight to decide the competition.
“I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today but in all fairness to my guys, I don’t think they played as well as they were capable of,” said International captain Nick Price, who was refusing to wave the white flag. “There’s a long way to go. I know the U.S. team knows that.
“This is a tough American team. It’s a very, very strong team and we can’t make a lot of mistakes.
“We have another 20 points left. We’re not laying down. These guys are going to come out fighting over the next two days and especially tomorrow.”
Presidents Cup debutantes Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, who sat out Thursday’s opening foursomes, showed no signs of jitters as they led the American stampede with a dominating 6&5 victory over South African Charl Schwartzel and India’s Anirban Lahiri to notch the first point of the day.
“I took it pretty well, but yesterday was hard,” said Hoffman of having to watch the opening matches from the sidelines. “Kevin and I were biting at the bit to get out there and play.
“It gave us a little more fire and momentum going into today.”
With the sun setting over the Manhattan skyline, Phil Mickelson, who has played in every edition of the Presidents Cup, dropped a 12-foot birdie putt at the par three 18th to clinch a one-up victory for himself and partner Kevin Kisner over Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman, sparking wild cheers from his team mates and fans packed around the finishing hole.
For Mickelson it was his 24th Presidents Cup victory, tying him with Tiger Woods for the most all-time, as the five time major winning hailed the team as the best he has ever seen.
“I just love every opportunity to be a part of these events and on these teams,” said Mickelson. “This team is a unique team from any in the past in that the talent level is high or higher than we’ve ever had, and the camaraderie amongst each other on and off the course is a whole different environment.”
Also scoring points for the U.S. were Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, who birdied the final two holes for a 3&2 decision over Australia’s Adam Scott and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, and Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas with a 3&2 victory over South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed contributed a half point to the U.S. effort when their match with Hideki Matsuyama and Canada’s Adam Hadwin ended all-square.
“It is a big lead the Americans have right now but we still have 10 matches tomorrow and we have 12 matches in the singles on Sunday,” said a struggling Matsuyama, the Internationals highest ranked player at world number three who will be benched for Saturday’s foursomes by Price. “I think every one of my teammates feel the same way; that there’s still a chance.”
Editing by Andrew Both and Pritha Sarkar/Gene Cherry