Presidents Cup: Friday Four-ball match recaps
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Written by Staff @PGATOUR
Presidents Cup players on the rerouting of Green Mile at Quail Hollow
The International Team needed a big second-round comeback Friday and didn’t get it despite playing their preferred Four-ball format. And now the U.S. Team, which holds an 11-1-1 record since the inception of the Presidents Cup in 1994, looks even more comfortably in control.
The home team takes an 8-2 lead into Saturday’s two-session day of eight matches after winning Friday’s Four-balls, 4-1.
Time after time, the Internationals watched putts slide past the hole, starting with Corey Conners’ missed birdie putt from 4 feet, 3 inches at the first. Meanwhile the U.S. Team seemingly couldn’t miss, with Sam Burns ringing up an 80-foot eagle putt at the par-5 seventh, a hole the U.S. Team owned.
Cameron Young also eagled the seventh, as did Patrick Cantlay. The U.S. Team’s three eagles in three consecutive matches, winning the hole each time, told the story of the 14th Presidents Cup.
The U.S. Team led all five matches before any had made the turn, once again putting the International Team on its back foot. But after the U.S. collected wins from its two stalwart teams – Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele – the International Team mounted a comeback and was able to tie the other three matches. It was an opportunity to climb back into contention but U.S. rookies kept the visitors at bay, highlighted by Max Homa’s back-to-back birdies on the final two holes of the final match to give the U.S. a 1-up win.
Saturday morning’s four Foursomes matches will begin at 7:12 a.m., with the afternoon session of Four-ball matches beginning at 12:05. The Presidents Cup is only one-third of its way through its 30 matches, but the United States has already exerted itself at Quail Hollow.
Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (U.S.) def. Adam Scott/Cam Davis (Intl.), 2 and 1
With a comfortable lead (4-1), Carolina temperatures cooling into the 70s and two U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) in attendance on the first tee, the U.S. carried some nice momentum into Friday’s Four-ball play. Spieth and Thomas, heading out first, weren’t about to surrender an inch of it.
The U.S. Team eased into the round with three pars, then made birdies on four of five holes to construct a 3-up lead. Thomas, who won the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, rolled in a 16-foot birdie at the par-3 fourth and added a 10-foot birdie make at the fifth to put the U.S. on top, 2-up. Spieth added an up-and-down birdie at the short eighth.
A birdie from Scott at the ninth (8 feet) kept the Internationals in the game. The Aussies would add birdies on the next three holes, yet picked up no ground, the U.S. protecting its 2-up lead. Spieth kept it that way with a key 10-footer at the par-5 12th. Thomas’ third deuce of the day came at the daunting par-3 14th (adding to his birdies at Nos. 4 and 10), where his 6-iron shot from 229 yards finished 3 feet behind the hole. The U.S. was 8-under through 14 holes. Spieth added a huge par save at the long 15th, then sealed the match with a downhill birdie putt from 20 feet at 17.
Thomas improved to 5-0-0 in Presidents Cup Four-ball play, the first competitor to win his first five matches in the format; Spieth, who made a putting adjustment to get his hands more forward in address, is 4-2-1.
QUOTES: “I really enjoy a great partner. I’m glad I put some ham in my omelette this morning, for a nice little ham ‘n egg out there. Jordan is starting to feel it with his putter, and it’s a fun site to see.” – Justin Thomas
“I was trying to drop that in the front edge (his winning putt) and it was going a good 5 or 6 (feet) by. It wasn’t exactly what I was trying to do there. But it was the right line. ... He (Thomas) made a good amount of birdies out there, and they were on the opposite holes of mine, and that’s just the way it needs to be in Four-ball." – Jordan Spieth
Score at match’s conclusion: U.S. Team 5, International Team 1
Scottie Scheffler/Sam Burns (U.S.) tied Sungjae Im/Sebastian Muñoz (Intl.)
Consider this: Im and Munoz, a rookie playing in his first match, were 9-under standing on the 17th tee – and were 1-down to the powerhouse pairing of Scheffler/Burns.
Both teams were hot, making lots of birdies, though it was a par by Munoz at the par-4 17th that sent the match to 18. Scheffler, the world No. 1 and Burns – a three-time winner last season – were looking to atone for their loss in the opening round of Foursomes, and never trailed. Im did what he could down the stretch. When he chipped in for birdie at the par-3 14th and holed a 33-foot birdie putt at the next hole, the U.S. answered. First it was Scheffler (10 feet) at 14. Burns then birdied the brutal 15th from 22 feet, keeping the U.S. ahead.
The U.S. had control early on. Burns didn’t like his approach into the par-5 seventh, but he enjoyed the uphill 80-foot eagle putt – 80 feet! – that slowed near the hole and dropped. Im made a valiant attempt at making his chip from over the green, but his ball stopped short. The U.S. led, 1-up.
Burns seemed to break things open when he made a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth, then hit 7-iron at the 178-yard 10th to 3 feet. Scheffler kept momentum with a 7-foot birdie at 11 that matched a birdie by Munoz. The U.S. was 2-up through 12. The scenes at 14 and 15 were thrilling for the large Quail Hollow crowds. At 18, it came down to Im (facing 24 feet for birdie) and Scheffler (9 feet). Im’s bid for his sixth birdie died off short and right; Scheffler’s putt for the win hung on the left edge of the cup, but refused to fall.
QUOTES: “We just kind of kept in touch with them as much as we could. On 14, Sungjae made an awesome birdie. They responded back. Then on 15, he made another awesome birdie. Then they responded back. It was a ton of fun. It was a good match, good golf.” – Sebastian Munoz
“I feel glad that we didn't give up a point. We played too well to give up any points. So happy to come up with half a point there.” – Sungjae Im
Score at match’s conclusion: U.S. Team 6 1/2, International Team 1 1/2
Kevin Kisner/Cameron Young (U.S.) tied Mito Pereira/Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Intl.)
Out of 10 matches over two days, this was the first where the Internationals enjoyed a lead for any semblance of time. Through 13 holes, the visitors were on top, 1-up. In such a tight match, the end result – each team earning half a point – proved fitting.
Kisner, a match-play bulldog, and Bezuidenhout, a top putter on the International side, made their 2022 Presidents Cup debuts (Kisner played on the winning U.S. team in 2017, going 2-0-2). Kisner had a strong partner in Young, who gave himself some nice looks in the early going.
Bezuidenhout trickled in a slick, downhill 25-footer at three for the match’s first birdie, but Young came right back by stuffing his tee shot to 3 feet at the fourth. When Young hit a second shot to 6 feet to set up eagle at the 554-yard seventh, the U.S. temporarily was up in all five matches.
Bezuidenhout tied the match at the ninth, and Pereira put the Internationals on top with a birdie from 5 feet at the par-3 10th. The U.S. birdied the next two holes (Kisner from 10 feet at 11), but Pereira matched both to protect the 1-up lead. Young’s two-putt par at the long par-3 14th leveled the match. The teams would tie the final five holes, with Pereira, Kisner and Young all missing long birdie putts at the last.
QUOTES: “We just didn't make any putts all day to really gain the momentum and keep it rolling. They made a few to keep them alive. If we had putted better, I think we'd have a different result.” – Kevin Kisner
“I felt like I was pretty comfortable really from early on yesterday. We had a good time out there. I had a really nice day, and I've been relatively comfortable the whole time.” – Presidents Cup rookie Cameron Young
Score at match’s conclusion: U.S. Team 7, International Team 2
Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) def. Hideki Matsuyama/Tom Kim (Intl.), 3 and 2
After going out first a day earlier, Schauffele/Cantlay were tucked further back in the lineup, this time toward the middle, one of three teams sent back out by U.S. Team Captain Davis Love III.
The U.S. Team put together a blistering opening nine, shooting 6-under. Here’s how things went: Matsuyama was closer to the hole in two shots than Schauffele at the fifth, but, following a trend through two days, the U.S. converted its birdie chance (10 feet) and the Internationals (9 feet) missed. Cantlay birdied six (17 feet), then almost holed a second shot at the par-5 seventh, where he made a 10-foot putt for eagle.
Schauffele made four birdies in the first eight holes, though the one he made at the seventh was clipped by Cantlay’s starry eagle. When Schauffele made birdie at the eighth, the U.S. was 5-up.
Despite a big lead, though, the U.S. side struggled to close the match out. Kim, the 20-year-old who won the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina, made his first birdie at the 12th hole, added another at 14 (from 7 feet) and was conceded a 15-footer at 15 to keep the Internationals alive. When both teams birdied the 16th hole, the match was over.
QUOTES: “We’re playing our own ball, so obviously a couple more attempts at birdie, and we were able to take advantage of that.” – Xander Schauffele
Score at match’s conclusion: U.S. Team 6, International Team 1
Billy Horschel/Max Homa (U.S.) def. Corey Conners/Taylor Pendrith (Intl.), 1-up
There wasn’t a great deal going on in this match for the longest time, and then these four Presidents Cup rookies produced a wild finish, each team executing clutch shots once the spotlight fell on them.
Homa, a winner last week in the PGA TOUR’s season debut in Napa (Fortinet Championship), where he pitched in on the 72nd hole, made birdie putts at the final two holes to carry the U.S. to a 4-1 result for the second consecutive day. Homa sank a 13-foot birdie at 17 to put the U.S. on top, 1-up, and matched Pendrith with a birdie from 11 feet at the par-4 18th. Pendrith had lipped out for birdie from 20 feet at 17, his ball circling the cup and spinning out, and rolled in a must-make 14-footer at 18. But Homa's late heroics were too much.
Birdies would be tough to find early on, with Conners missing from 4 feet at the very first hole. The U.S. forged a 2-up advantage after winning both front-nine par 3s (4 and 6) with pars. In fact, the U.S. would not make its first birdie until the eighth hole (Horschel, from 4 feet), yet still managed to take a 2-up lead to second nine against their cold-starting opponents.
Conners cut the U.S. advantage in half with a 6-foot birdie at 11, and with his partner in tight at the par-4 13th, he stepped up and rolled in a 33-foot birdie to tie the match. The two Canadians have a tight bond – each was best man in the other’s wedding – and fought hard, finding something on the second nine only to come up just short. The Internationals head to the weekend trailing 8-2.
QUOTES: “This is insane. ... Man, what a day. Billy made some amazing putts, and I just wanted to help him. To have an opportunity at the last to do it, it was amazing. That’s a day that I will never forget.” – Max Homa
“I’ve never been this nervous in my life this morning. I felt like I was going to throw up for about three hours straight, just in anticipation of being able to play finally. To have a match like this ... we made big shots and big putts when we needed to. I know Max was going to make some putts. It was just a matter of time.” – Billy Horschel
Score at match’s conclusion: U.S. Team 8, International Team 2