US cling to marginal lead
A late rally from the International team kept the United States’ Presidents Cup lead at just one point heading into the weekend.
A late rally from the International team kept the United States’ Presidents Cup lead at just one point heading into the weekend after Friday’s fourball matches in San Francisco.
Fred Couples’ USA team, who had led Greg Norman’s rest of the world side by 3½ points to 2½ following the opening day’s foursomes, finished the second day 6½ to 5½in front.
The Americans had looked as if they might move further clear at Harding Park as they raced ahead in five of the six better ball fourball matches, in stark contrast to the opening day’s alternate shot matches when the Internationals had made the strong start.
Just as the Internationals faded over the course of those matches on Thursday, so too did the Americans on Friday, but as all the matches moved onto the back nine the situation was still finely balanced.
Phil Mickelson had led off the USA on Thursday with Anthony Kim and sealed the first point of the match and, teamed with Justin Leonard, he got his side off to another strong start as they beat Retief Goosen of South Africa and Australia’s Adam Scott three and two.
There was some redemption for Leonard as he sank the winning putt having missed a shorter putt on the 18th the previous day that would have given his team victory alongside Jim Furyk over Goosen and YE Yang.
“I was pretty upset when I finished, mad at myself, yesterday,” Leonard said. “I went in and made a joke about it in the team room last night but knowing I needed to come out and play well today.
“I rode (Mickelson) all the way around today and made a couple of putts and it felt very good.”
International team rookies Ishikawa, a captain’s pick, and Korea’s Yang did Asia proud with a four and three win over American duo Kenny Perry and Sean O’Hair. They had led four up after six holes before an American rally cut the deficit by two holes, Perry chipping in from off the green at the 13th.
Yang and teenager Ishikawa then stepped things up once more and sealed victory on the 15th green, Yang two-putting to seal the point and cut the American lead to a point at 4.5 to 3.5.
Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, though, handed another beating to Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy.
Woods and Stricker had crushed Ogilvy and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa six and four in foursomes and they dominated the Australian and Masters champion Angel Cabrera in fourballs, winning five and three.
“Steve and I have gelled well together and in this format you’ve got to make a bunch of birdies and we did that for most of the day,” said Woods.
Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan were two and one winners over Camilo Villegas of Colombia and Australia’s Robert Allenby, leaving Norman in desperate need of points from the two remaining matches.
And the captain was able rely on four of his most experienced competitors to help him keep the Internationals in the hunt heading to the weekend.
The South African and Canadian combination of Ernie Els and Mike Weir were involved in a scrap with Americans Kim and Furyk, although Kim, a Ryder Cup hero at Valhalla 12 months ago, was not a factor in the contest.
All square with five holes to play, Furyk sent down a birdie at the 14th to hand the Americans a one-up advantage before the Internationals levelled matters at the 16th and then went ahead at the 17th.
It was the second day running Furyk had been taken to the last hole, Leonard’s missed putt having left him with a half on Thursday.
This time, his team’s fate was in his hands as he gave himself a 20-foot eagle putt to halve the match. His putt rolled wide and the Americans conceded the hole to give the Internationals a much-needed point.
“We knew our match was tight all the way,” Weir said. “It was ham and egg, just back and forth. I made a couple and Ernie made a couple. Jim played great today and AK was a little off.”
Vijay Singh of Fiji and South Africa’s Tim Clark were also involved in a see-saw battle with 2009 major winners Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, twice trailing the Americans on the front nine before edging in front at the turn, only to allow the home team to square things up at the 14th.
Glover birdied the 16th to give his team a one-up lead but both he and Cink missed birdie putts to halve the hole at the 17th and leave the match all square heading to the last.
Clark and Cink both found the fairway off the tee and Clark had the pick of their approach shots as Open champion Cink sent his second shot into greenside rough. Both Americans had birdie putts to put pressure on Clark but missed their chances and the South African was left with an eagle putt to win the match.
He sank his putt and then slumped to his knees having secured a one-up victory to keep the Internationals in with a shout over the weekend.
Presidents Cup, USA v International Team, Harding Park Golf Course, San Francisco, California, USA.
(USA names first, all times BST):
Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard bt Retief Goosen and Adam Scott 3 & 2
Kenny Perry and Sean O’Hair lost to Ryo Ishikawa and Y.E. Yang 4 & 3
Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim lost to Ernie Els and Mike Weir 2 down
Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods bt Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera 5 & 3
Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink lost to Vijay Singh and Tim Clark 1 down
Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan bt Robert Allenby and Camilo Villegas 2 & 1
USA 6 1/2 International Team 5 1/2
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