The Presidents Cup is heading back to the United States but the Internationals fought bravely thoughout the singles matches. Here's how the day unfolded.
BY BRENDAN JAMES
The United States began this Presidents Cup as the overwhelming favourites and the Internationals, at least on paper, lacked the depth to match it with them.
After a 4-1 foursomes slaughter by United States on Day One, it seemed like the same old story but a different venue.
But the Internationals clawed their way back to be just one point adrift, 9.5 to 8.5, with the Sunday singles left to play. Here’s how the International underdogs gave the Americans a Presidential scare, and produced the exciting finish this event yearned for.
Rickie Fowler v Adam Scott (Match 2)
Scott opened the account for the Internationals for a demolition job on Fowler, winning 6 & 5. Birdies at the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th holes sucked the wind out of the American’s sails as the Queenslander raced to 4 up in four holes. Fowler followed with bogies at the 11th and 12th holes, pushing Scott to 6 up and a par at the 13th was good enough to close out the match and grab the first Sunday point for the Internationals and lift the spirits of the home team.
United States 9.5 tied with Internationals 9.5
Patrick Reed v Louis Oosthuizen (Match 1)
The American won the opening two holes of the match and was never behind in his enthralling battle with the South African.
Oosthuizen stayed in touch heading for home with birdies at the 12th and 14th holes to keep Reed from pulling away. But a costly bogey on the par-4 16th, gave Reed the advantage. Both men two-putted from long range on the par-3 17th, which set up a final hole showdown for the second point.
The pair found the fairway and Oosthuizen played first, hitting his second on the par-5 to 12 feet. Reed’s approach missed the green, rolling down an embankment. He chipped to about six feet but it didn’t matter as Oosthuizen rolled in the eagle to snatch a half and a valuable point for the Internationals.
“I had a lot of chances in this match…I hit one of the biggest 7-irons of my career on 18 and get the half,” Oosthuizen said.
United States 10 tied with Internationals 10
Dustin Johnson v Danny Lee (Match 3)
Lee had the worst possible start, losing the opening three holes with bogies. But he clawed his way back into the match with wins at the 4th and 7th holes and made the turn just 1 down.
Johnson’s ball-striking was sloppy and he conceded the 11th, to have the match leveled, and conceded the 14th after finding the water from the tee on the short par-4.
Lee walked to the 15th tee leading the match 1 up but found trouble from the tee and Johnson squared the match with a par. Johnson finished off the match with two winning pars at the 16th and 17th holes for a 2 & 1 victory.
United States 11 lead the Internationals 10
Phil Mickelson v Charl Schwartzel (Match 7)
The five-time major champion was in vintage form on and around the greens of the Jack Nicklaus course. He was helped along the way by Schwartzel, who couldn’t make a putt. Well, that is, from close range. The South Africans only winning hole was at the par-3 8th when he rolled in a birdie from 52 feet.
The long bomb just delayed the inevitable as Mickelson marched on, carding his first birdie on the short par-4 14th to close out the match 5 & 4 and move the Americans two points clear of the Internationals.
United States 12 lead the Internationals 10
J.B Holmes v Hideki Matsuyama (Match 4)
Matsuyama fought back to grab a crucial point for the Internationals at a time when it looked like the Americans might inch a little closer to the retaining the Cup.
Japan’s No.1 was 2 down through 12 holes, having led 1 up earlier in the match. Holmes still had a tenuous grip on the lead, 1 up, through 13 but birdies to Matsuyama at the 14th and 16th gave him a 1 up advantage with two holes to play.
Holmes played a peach of a tee shot at the par-3 17th, with the ball finishing 10 feet from the cup, well inside Matsuyama’s ball. When Matsuyama missed, Holmes rolled his birdie in to square the match heading to the final hole.
Both men found the fairway with their drives at par-5 18th, but Holmes had a more difficult approach. The pair left their approaches short of the green but it was Matusyama who applied the pressure with a superb chip that nestled just a few feet from the flag. This seemed to unsettle Holmes who took an age to finally hit his pitch shot. When he finally did hit his third shot, it was less than inspiring, rolling to a stop 15-foot short of the cup.
Holmes missed his birdie opportunity, Matsuyama rolled his in and the Internationals were back within one point.
United States 12 lead the Internationals 11
Bubba Watson v Thongchai Jaidee (Match 5)
All that needs to be said here is that Watson had Jaidee on toast more than once down the stretch in this match and let the 45-year-old rookie off the hook.
The two-time Masters Champion was 3 up with eight holes to play but birdies to Jaidee at the 11th and 12th holes narrowed the margin to 1 up. Watson couldn’t shake the Thai veteran, and when the American failed to get up and down from left of the green on 17, he was standing on the 18th tee all-square.
Jaidee then gave Watson a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, when he sliced his drive into the lake right of the 18th fairway. But Watson didn’t accept the opportunity to close out, despite being within range of the green for his second shot. He missed the green and chipped up to three feet.
Jaidee two-putted from nearly 60 feet for his par, leaving Watson to roll in his short putt for the win but he missed and the match was halved.
United States 12.5 lead the Internationals 11.5
Jimmy Walker v Steven Bowditch (Match 6)
This match was a tale of two nines. Walker was 2 up through eight holes but lost the 9th hole with a soft bogey.
Neither player set the course alight with their play and Bowditch was able to grab wins with birdies at the 11th and 14th holes to go 3 up. Walker pulled one back with a concession on the par-5 15th and then his par at the 17th gave him the chance to grab a half with Bowditch.
Both men fired their second shots at the green, but Walker was unable to make birdie after chipping 15 feet beyond the flag. Bowditch had three feet for his birdie and Walker gave the putt to him and the Internationals gained the point to draw alongside the Americans at 12.5 points each.
United States 12.5 equal with Internationals 12.5
Chris Kirk v Anirban Lahiri (Match 8)
Having trailed for most of their match, Lahiri looked like he was in the box seat to push the Internationals in front for the first time with his play on the final hole. Having birdied the 14th to get his match back to square, Lahiri was in close for three and looking at birdie at the 18th to grab a win.
Kirk’s approach finished nearly 20 feet from the cup, leaving a tough downhill putt for birdie. He rolled the putt in, to the roars of his teammates, leaving Lahiri a three-footer for the half. He appeared to take little time over the putt and tried to take the break out by hitting it firm, but he pushed the putt and it lipped out, giving the Americans an unexpected point. It was a miss that would ultimately prove to be the difference between the Internationals winning and losing the Cup.
United States 13.5 lead Internationals 12.5
Zach Johnson v Jason Day (Match 10)
Day had a day he’d rather forget, and Johnson took full advantage.
The Open Champion was only one under par but leading 3 up through nine holes and quickly made that 5 up as Day bogied the 10th and 11th holes.
Birdies to Day at the 12th and 13th as well as a conceded hole on the par-5 15th from Johnson, gave Day a slim hope of making a miraculous comeback. But it wasn’t to be as another bogey at the 16th gave Johnson the win 3 & 2 and pushed the Americans to within a half point of retaining the Cup.
United States 14.5 lead Internationals 12.5
Jordan Spieth v Marc Leishman (Match 9)
Had the golfing world got what they wanted in a Spieth v Day match up, the Cup might have been lost earlier.
Instead, International Captain Nick Price entrusted Leishman with the task of bringing down the World No.1 and he didn’t let him down.
The Victorian was never leading until the short par-4 14th hole, when Spieth missed the fairway with an iron from the tee and Leishman made a hole-winning birdie. Spieth conceded the next hole after finding water and Leishman was in front.
Leishman matched Spieth shot-for-shot on 16 and 17, and Spieth needed to win the 18th to grab a half. After chipping stone dead for a gimme birdie, Leishman was left to hole his four-footer for the win and it never looked in doubt.
United States 14.5 lead Internationals 13.5
Matt Kuchar v Branden Grace (Match 11)
Having failed to register a Presidents Cup point at Muirfield in 2013, Branden Grace took all before him in Seoul. He had won four points from four matches before the Sunday singles and his great form continued against Kuchar.
He was 5 up through 11 holes and despite a comeback from Kuchar, the South African had him covered and he claimed another point for the Internationals. His 5 wins, no losses performance was just the fifth clean sweep by a player in the history of the Presidents Cup.
United States 14.5 equal with Internationals 14.5
Bill Haas v Sang-moon Bae (Match 12)
Like many of his International teammates, Bae never occupied a leading position in his match with Haas.
Haas made the turn for home 2 up but consecutive birdies from Bae squared the match through 11 holes. The long, demanding par-4 12th would prove vital to the Internationals’ fortunes, as Haas rolled in a 35-footer for birdie to go back to 1 up – a lead he held through to the 18th tee that ensured the Cup could not be lost by the Americans.
By this stage, the Internationals were hoping Bae could win the final hole and the Cup would be tied.
Haas’ approach to the 18th green flew in a little hot and ran across the front edge of the putting surface to finish in a bunker, 25 feet from the flag. Bae’s approach finished 20 metres short of the green and, as Watson and Holmes discovered earlier, the chip onto the elevated green from there is a tough one.
With more than 20,000 people lining the fairway and green, Bae buckled under the pressure and chunked his chip shot with the leading edge of the wedge digging deep into the turf and the ball only flying two thirds of the way up the steep slope. The ball trickled back down the hill and Bae dropped to his knees knowing the Presidents Cup was heading back to the United States. He regathered himself and hit his fourth shot 16 feet long of the hole.
When Haas’ bunker escape finished 5 feet from the flag, Bae sportingly conceded the hole.
United States 15.5 defeated the Internationals 14.5