The underdog Internationals bared their teeth on Saturday, outplaying the United States in a marathon day of golf to leave American fans stunned and the Presidents Cup suddenly up for grabs.
The heavily favoured U.S. had started the day with a commanding 8-2 advantage and in position to register a Presidents Cup first – securing the golden trophy on Saturday.
But the Americans took their foot of the gas, opening the door for the scrappy Internationals, who split the morning foursomes 2-2 and then took three of four points in the afternoon fourballs to chop the U.S. advantage to 11-7.
“They (the U.S. players) were pretty mad,” said U.S. captain Davis Love III. “We wanted to win every session, and we tied one and lost one today.
“So that wasn’t part of our plan.
“They’re going to come out mad tomorrow.”
While it was an inspiring performance by the Internationals they will head into Sunday’s decisive singles still facing a daunting challenge of overhauling a U.S. team that needs just 4-1/2 points from the 12 matches to get to the 15 1/2 needed to secure victory.
The Internationals, with a record eight Presidents Cup debutants in their 12-man team, were given little chance against a U.S. powerhouse featuring nine of the top 15 players in the world and had looked ready to be steamrollered after being routed in the opening two sessions.
International captain Trevor Immelman had vowed his men would fight until the final bell and they have now earned the opportunity to pull off what many believe would be the biggest upset in golf.
“We were in a deep hole,” said Immelman. “We’ve been fighting our guts out all week and we’ve just been trying to stay patient to wait for some putts to go in.
“Finally, this afternoon, some putts started to fall for us.”
A long day at the Quail Hollow Club began in the dawn chill but the early start did not stop fans from packing into the first tee stands, the pro-American crowd sending off Love’s men to what they hoped would be another day of domination.
But the raucous cheers fell silent in the Charlotte twilight when the Australian duo of Adam Scott and Cam Davis rallied from 1-down to Sam Burns and Billy Horschel with three to play to register a 1-up win.
After splitting the foursome the Americans had looked to get back on track in the fourball when the U.S. power pairing of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas picked up their fourth win in four matches subduing Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Canadian Taylor Pendrith 4&3.
But that would be the only U.S. point of the afternoon as the Internationals continued to build on their morning momentum.
South Korea’s Im Sung-jae and Colombian Sebastian Munoz started the rally with a 3&2 win over Tony Finau an Kevin Kisner.
But the spark the Internationals had been seeking came from fearless 20-year-old Kim Joo-hyung, his big putts and even bigger celebrations providing his team with an emotional jolt.
Kim (also known as Tom Kim) partnered with Kim Si-woo to take down the unbeaten U.S. pair of world numbers four and five Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 1-up when the 20-year-old rookie dropped a nerve jangling 10-foot birdie putt at the 18th for the win.
“This young kid has burst onto the scene in the last six months, he’s been such a tremendous gift to our sport,” praised Immelman. “He has an ability to be a global superstar.
“I thought something that was so cool on the final hole today, he’s about 240 yards out.
“I look back, I see the who’s who of American golf in golf carts behind him.
“I see (Justin) Thomas, I see (Jordan) Spieth, I see (Tony) Finau, I see (Max) Homa, all of them sitting on carts 15 yards from him.
“And this kid pures a two iron to 10-feet and makes the putt.”
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