Tiger Woods, Americans trail by two entering Sunday singles at Presidents Cup

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Tiger Woods, Americans trail by two entering Sunday singles at Presidents Cup

2019 Presidents Cup

Tiger Woods, Americans trail by two entering Sunday singles at Presidents Cup

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Duuun dun. Duuun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun.

Like the great white in “Jaws,” the Americans always seemed to be dangerously looming and on the hunt despite encountering rough waters the first three sessions of the 13th edition of the Presidents Cup.

The underdog Internationals had controlled matters through 2½ days but knew the Americans, with all 12 players ranked in the top 25, were a long ways from being harpooned. The band of Internationals were certainly not safe prey despite holding a comfortable lead and knew the Americans could pounce at any time.

That time came Saturday afternoon.

After clawing and scraping just to be behind their underdog opposition, 9-5, heading into afternoon foursomes, the U.S. was still confident a comeback was in the offing. This despite playing without captain Tiger Woods, who decided to sit himself again after not playing in the morning.

It seemed an odd decision, seeing as Woods was 2-0-0 the first two days. But Woods said he trusted his charges and was confident much needed points would be won.

“He needed a day to rest and he rested,” Gary Woodland said. “We had to go out and step up for him. He told us all that; to pick him up, and we went out and tried to flip the script and luckily we did.”

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By earning three of four points in the afternoon, the Americans, who are 10-1-1 in the event, pulled within 10-8 heading into the 12 singles matches on Sunday.

At one point in the afternoon, there was a sea of red on the scoreboard. The U.S. was poised to even the score heading into the final day, but the Internationals pulled off half-points in the final two matches to keep some breathing room.

After the Internationals won the morning session of fourballs 2½-1½ to take a four-point lead, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland started the USA’s comeback. The two put the first red flag on the board with a 2-and-1 victory over the Internationals’ heart and soul, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.

The Americans assumed their first lead on the seventh and never trailed thereafter in a battle where both teams fought balky putters.

Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay pulled the Americans within two at 9-7 by winning for the second time as a team, 2 and 1, against Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im. The Americans finally wrestled control from the Internationals on the back nine.

But then Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, who teamed for victory in the morning, couldn’t finish off their waltz in the afternoon. The duo took a 5-up lead with eight holes to play and seemed a lock to win another point. But Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer lifted their spirits one shot at a time, won the 11th and 12th and then took the last three holes to pull out what could be a pivotal half-point come Sunday.

Rickie Fowler plays a shot from the rough on the 18th hole during Saturday afternoon foursomes matches at the 2019 Presidents Cup. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Thomas had won his first three matches, his first two coming with Woods. But 4-0-0 eluded him as he and Fowler faltered down the stretch, making bogey on the final three holes. Thomas drove into the trees on the 18th and then, after an outstanding recovery shot by Fowler, blew his approach 50 feet beyond the hole.

“I think speechless,” Thomas said when asked about his reaction. “It’s unacceptable for us to get a half a point. They made a couple long putts there on 15 and 16 to keep it going. We had our chances, and I mean, flat honest, just didn’t execute. I’m just disappointed in myself for burning that, I felt like, for us on 18.”

In the anchor match, Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar were 2 up with five holes to play but had to hang on to pull out a half-point after losing the 14th and 15th holes.

Afterward, the Internationals, despite losing 3-1 in the afternoon, felt they had the momentum going into singles.

“It was a big last hour for us today,” Scott said. “Certainly feel like it showed our intentions as a team. It goes a long, long way, the half-points. The score line is really good for us, considering what it was looking like.

“We’re in the middle of a fight and we’re all going to be up for it. This was the goal starting the week. We’re in great shape. Today was a long, tough slog out there. There were lots of up-and-downs. We finished on a high. If we go out there and play the way we’ve been playing, we can do this tomorrow.”

The U.S. still has plenty of work to do on Sunday to win for the eighth consecutive time. But history is not on the Americans’ side – the Internationals haven’t lost a singles session since 2009.

Woodland said it didn’t matter who had momentum leaving the grounds on Saturday.

“Momentum means nothing because we’re all going to go to bed and wake up tomorrow, and everybody is going to play differently,” he said. “I like where we’re at. I like our team. We fought hard today because it could have been really bad, so for us to get back within two points, I think is a good momentum shift for us, but that’s not going to matter. We’ve got to tee it up.”

U.S. fans look on during Saturday afternoon foursomes matches at the 2019 Presidents Cup. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Added Kuchar: “There was a point (Friday) where it looked like it may be 9-1 Internationals, and for us to be sitting here at 10-8, certainly feel good. We’d rather be in the International position right now, but for us to be staring at 9-1 as a potential position to now be at 10-8, I think the guys in the locker room feel awfully good about what we were able to do today, and excited for tomorrow’s singles.”

Foursomes matches

Johnson-Woodland (U.S.) def. Oosthuizen-Scott (Int.), 2 and 1

Fowler-Thomas (U.S.) vs. Ancer-Leishman (Int.), tie

Cantlay-Schauffele (U.S.) def. Im-Smith (Int.), 2 and 1

Finau-Kuchar (U.S.) vs. An-Niemann (Int.), tie

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