Australia’s Cam Davis and South Korean Kim Joo-hyung won matches with sensational late birdies on Saturday as the underdog Internationals unleashed a major fightback against the heavily favoured United States team at the Presidents Cup.
The global squad won three of four fourball (best ball) matches and split four foursomes (alternate shot) matches to pull within 11-7 and add some drama to Sunday’s 12 final singles matches at Quail Hollow.
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“I’m almost in tears,” Internationals captain Trevor Immelman said. “I’m so proud of these guys. We’ve fought so hard. We’ve had to be so patient.”
With 15.5 points needed to claim the Cup, the United States must only win four matches and tie another on Sunday to capture the trophy for a ninth consecutive time.
“We’ve got to turn around and play like we did the first two days,” US captain Davis Love said. “We always feel like we’re at an advantage in the singles. We’ve had some great singles days in the past.”
But Love knows all-too well the pain of losing a four-point lead on the last day, having been the US captain at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Europe won singles 8.5-3.5 to win in the “Miracle at Medinah.”
“We’re in a good spot,” Love insisted. “We have a lot of guys hitting it good. They just made more putts than we did.”
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The Americans own an 11-1-1 all-time lead in the competition and have never lost on home soil.
The US team, with 10 of the world’s 16 top-ranked players to none for their global rivals, was a heavy favorite over a team that lost many top players who jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, making them ineligible.
The Internationals need 8.5 points from 12 matches in what would be the greatest last-day comeback in Presidents Cup history to create a Horror at Quail Hollow for the USA.
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“We’ve got a very long way to go,” Immelman said. “We know how tough the Americans are in singles. But today was a great day for us. This team has been through a lot.”
Davis, paired with fellow Aussie Adam Scott, made an 11-foot eagle putt to win the par-5 16th, sank a 14-foot birdie putt to win 17 and take their first lead, then holed a nine-foot birdie putt to tie 18 and clinch a 1-up victory over Sam Burns and Billy Horschel.
“I actually fed off it,” Davis said of the pressure-packed atmosphere. “I was more pumped up than I had been all week. Sometimes that brings out your best golf and that’s what happened.”
‘I’m really happy’
Kim Joo-hyung sank a 10-foot birdie putt at 18 to deliver an emotional 1-up victory for himself and countryman Kim Si-woo over previously unbeaten Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.
“I wanted that putt more than anything in the world,” Kim Joo-hyung said. “I’m really happy.”
Kim Joo-hyung sank a 54-foot eagle putt to win 11 and Kim Si-woo birdied from 22 feet to win 13 and equalize.
Schauffele answered by sinking a 37-foot birdie putt to win the 15th but Kim Sim-woo’s five-foot birdie won 16 to level matters before 20-year-old Kim Joo-hyung holed the winner, screaming and pumping his fists with joy.
“I’ve thrown a lot of fist pumps this week,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Jordan Spieth, a three-time major champion, and Justin Thomas, who won his first of two major title at Quail Hollow in 2017, beat Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Canada’s Taylor Pendrith 4&3 to become only the third duo to go 4-0 in a single Presidents Cup.
Spieth and Thomas made the turn 2-up after Thomas birdied the ninth from 10 feet and Spieth chipped in for birdie from just inside 19 feet to win the 15th and close out the match.
South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Munoz never trailed in beating Tony Finau and Kevin Kisner 3&2. Im’s two-putt birdie from 70 feet won the 11th for a 2-up lead and the Americans never came closer.