Waterlogged Price still sees glass half full
We’ve seen this movie before. At least we think we have, best anyone can tell a bit more than halfway through. It might again end up being an International horror flick with no compelling ending. Or, if everything falls into place for director Nick Price, it could transform into a drama that people will watch to the finish for a change.
At any rate, Price’s Internationals have reached a desperate fork in the plot at the water-logged Presidents Cup. And they pretty much need to have everything fall right if they are to make the uphill climb and reverse the trend in a series the Americans lead 7-1-1.
The U.S. side has won the past three meetings by at least four points and that could well happen again. After all, the Yanks lead 11.5 to 6.5 entering Sunday with 16 points outstanding – four weather-delayed foursomes matches followed by a dozen in singles.
Despite that situation, Mother Nature’s glass, what with 1.6 inches of rain deposited since Thursday, apparently isn’t the only one half full. From the sounds of it, Price’s is, too.
“It’s not over,” said the International captain, whose team led in all five Saturday afternoon foursomes matches at one point before losing momentum shortly before sunset. “We still have a lot of golf to play tomorrow. I have the utmost confidence in these guys that they can turn those two games around.”
That’s what it will take, if not more. The Americans led by a point after the first two sessions, but then went up by five by Saturday’s end because of a 4-1 four-ball rout and the remarkable Jason Dufner/Zach Johnson victory over Richard Sterne/Marc Leishman in the only alternate-shot match that finished before dark.
The U.S. duo was 2 down through seven holes but won six of the next eight holes (four with birdies, one with eagle) in winning 4 and 3. Dufner’s accurate iron approaches started the run and Johnson’s eagle hole-out from 115 yards capped it.
That flip didn’t seal the Internationals’ fate but significantly hurt their chances of winning for the first time since 1998. “Pretty key,” is how the low-key Dufner framed his point.
In the remaining four foursome matches, the U.S. is 2 up in one (Bill Haas/Steve Stricker over Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama through 10), all square in another (Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley against Jason Day/Graham DeLaet through 13) and trailing in a pair (Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel 3 up on Webb Simpson/Brandt Snedeker through 12, and Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge 2 up on Tiger Woods/Matt Kuchar after nine).
If the scores hold, the U.S. would lead 13-9 entering singles and appear almost a cinch to reach the 17.5 points needed for victory. In other words, the Internationals need to flip more than the cook manning the grill at the pancake house. At the very least, Day/DeLaet need to break their tie. If that happens and the others hold, the International deficit would improve to a manageable three.
“If we get (to 3 down), it would be great for singles,” Oosthuizen said.
Thing is, the Internationals haven’t played poorly in the birdiefest in the slop at Muirfield Village, which has been pelted with 1.6 inches of rain since Thursday. The much deeper American team just has played better, particularly on the greens in the 11 four-balls.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Price said of his collection of players that rank significantly lower in the world rankings than U.S. counterparts. “They’ve come together so well. I’m pleased as punch at what they’ve done.”
Unfortunately, Price might not be able to front-load his singles lineup, as smart captains do when trailing, because his pairings need to be made before the Sunday morning foursomes finish. That means his eight players left in foursomes might have to play farther down the singles lineup than desired.
“It’s not an ideal situation,” Price said.
Then again, neither is a five-point deficit against a powerful team.