The Internationals produced a fight back of their own to head into Sunday’s singles with a two point margin at Royal Melbourne, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
The grey crowds may have set a gloomy picture but the action on the course was anything but dull. Ernie Els’ men enjoyed a good morning as they earned a further 2.5 points thanks to wins from the combinations of Sungjae Im/Abraham Ancer and Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan and a half from Adam Scott and Ben An.
Only Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler ensured a sliver of red on the leaderboard.
The good foundation set up a thrilling Saturday afternoon as the USA trailed 9-5. Once more Tiger Woods sat out play as he kept the faith in the Thomas/Fowler pairing and once more sent out big-hitting duo Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson. The pair of US Open champs did the business as they ended the winning runs of Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott.
That combined with Thomas/Fowler storming into a 5UP through 7 lead over Leishman/Ancer started panic through the Internationals lineup. At a point on Friday, they were projected at 9-1 up but at the same time a day later the scoreboard was projected at 9-9.
Much like the USA fought back, the Internationals channeled their fighting spirit. No one personified it more than rookie Ancer as the Mexico star hauled his teammate back into the match. Somehow, he and Leishman stopped leaking holes and made a dent in the lead with wins at 11 and 12.
Ancer and Leishman then turned on the style and won the last three holes on the bounce to claim the most unlikeliest of halves.
Els could only watch as rookie pairing Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith squandered a 3UP lead through five to lose 2&1 to Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, who enjoyed a fine afternoon around the greens.
That left Joaquin Niemann and Ben An to try salvage something from their contest against the experienced Matt Kuchar and future USA team superstar Tony Finau. The Americans led 2UP with 8 to play before An found his best stuff on the greens.
The Internationals won 11, 14 and 15 to set up a thrilling conclusion to the day. Neither side could find the winner with Niemann setting up An, who succesfully halved the 17th with a six footer, for a potentially match-defining putt on the last despite An’s wayward drive.
The equation once Kuchar had missed a slippery downhill putt was simple for An, make another from a similar distance to his putt on the previous hole to send his side into the singles with a three-point advantage.
The putt was not fitting of the all-action day as it died low and left of the cup. Not a disaster though as the Internationals live to fight another day.
Internationals 2.5 United States 1.5
Marc Leishman/Li Haotong lost to Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler 3 and 2
Im Sung-jae/Abraham Ancer beat Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay 3 and 2
Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan beat Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed 5 and 3
Adam Scott/An Byeong-hun tied with Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau
Internationals 1 United States 3
Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott lost to Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland 2 and 1
Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer tied with Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler
Cameron Smith/Im Sung-jae lost to Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay 2 and 1
An Byeong-hun/Joaquin Niemann tied with Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau