The Internationals let their biggest chance to breath life back into the Presidents Cup by squandering a number of opportunties, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
It seems like an age ago. After a scintillating 4-1 start in Thursday’s fourballs, the Internationals led in all five games on Friday as they looked to drive home their advantage. Their form ignited the crowd as they roared with approval at the work done by Ernie Els’ men.
Then it started to unravel … Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele beat Joaquin Niemann and Adam Hadwin 1 up thanks to a birdie at the last. Tiger Woods then watched as Justin Thomas helped do the same to edge Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An.
If that wasn’t enough, Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith fluffed a 2UP lead with three holes to play to tie Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland.
Many wrote then that the momentum had shifted. Hindsight has proven them completely correct as the score stood at
9-1 6.5-3.5 in favour of the Internationals but the nail was not in the coffin.
The next morning home hero Adam Scott missed a nine footer on the last. Sink it and it’s a win over Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar. He missed and Finau boxed his from two foot closer.
The session was still won by the Internationals at 2.5-1.5. 3-1 sure does sound a whole lot better.
The foursomes, where the Internationals have traditionally been blown away, saw some drama as Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer came from from 5 down through 7 to halve their match.
But Els’ side let a point slide by as Byeong Hun An failed to birdie the last hole in his match against Finau/Kuchar from six feet after having watched Finau miss from a little further away.
That miss, it was low and left, sent the Internationals into Sunday with a two-point cushion as the Americans grabbed hold of the psychological advantage of being let off time and time again.
The top matches in the draw were heavily favoured in the visitors direction. There was no ways Haotong Li – the less written about him this week the better – was going to get anything against Dustin Johnson. The same for CT Pan against a revved up Patrick Reed; his singles form still has that Captain America feel to it even if the myth about his team play (0-3 with Webb Simpson this week) has been well and truly busted.
And add Tiger Woods to the top of the bill, you can see Els needed some positivity from his front six.
That was supposed to come from Hideki Matsuyama. The third-highest ranked player on the Internationals team soared into a 4Up lead with 8 to play. And then Finau hit back. Eventually, the Japan star settled for a half but was unable to send out a message to his teammates that it could be done. The three-putt to lose the 17th was criminal.
Adam Hadwin too missed out on his chance of being the jolt of positivity. He won the 17th in a battle against the sparingly used Bryson DeChambeau but missed from 13 feet on the last to get some yellow on the board.
From the first five matches, the Internationals had secured just one point. The writing was on the wall.
The bottom section was supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the home fans.
Cameron Smith bravely downed Justin Thomas 2&1 but Louis Oosthuizen, the talisman for the hosts this week, didn’t put Kuchar away and let a 3UP lead through nine holes disintegrate.
Marc Leishman’s half against Rickie Fowler in match 12 was irrelevant but he too let a 1UP advantage with four to play out of his grasp.
The event needed a strong showing from the Internationals and a two-point loss was enough to silence the haters. Going back to all those little moments that were left out on the course, it’s not hard to imagine captain Els and his team of Internationals misfits having the night of their lives on Sunday.