Americans recover late to only trail by 3 in Presidents Cup

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The International team is going so well at this Presidents Cup that it had to settle for a three-point lead after two sessions at Royal Melbourne.

Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay were among those who made sure it was only that.

Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott rallied from 2 down by winning five of the next seven holes and closed out Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar in the opening foursomes match Friday.

Patrick Reed heard it from the crowd again, including shouts of “Patrick Cheat” for his rules violation last week in the Bahamas. Far tougher on Reed and Webb Simpson was the International team of Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer, who seized control on the back nine to win, 3 and 2.

The board was filled with black-and-gold, the new colors of this inspired International team trying to win for only the second time in the 25-year history of this event.

At one point, captain Ernie Els could think about a clean sweep. His team led in every match at one point.

Instead, the Americans took a little momentum into a double session of matches Saturday, winning two matches on the 18th hole and halving another.

The International team led 6 1/2-3 1/2, its largest lead through two sessions since it won at Royal Melbourne in 1998. It also had a three-point lead going into Sunday singles in South Africa in 2003, the year of the tie.

“It’s perspective, isn’t it?” Els said. “I’ve got to look at where we are. It’s easy to just look at where we could have been, because it was looking really unbelievable. We tie this afternoon.”

Els then considered the Americans have a 50 1/2 — 22 1/2 advantage in foursomes in winning the last seven times, and maybe it wasn’t all that bad.

“We’re in a very good position,” Els said.

Joaquin Niemann hit a tee shot to 4 feet on the par-3 14th that Adam Hadwin converted into birdie for a 1-up lead. Cantlay answered with a bullet of a shot onto the green at the par-5 15th that set up a two-putt birdie to square the match. Cantlay delivered the winner on the 18th with a 15-foot birdie.

That was the first point.

The biggest moment belonged to Thomas. He and U.S. captain Tiger Woods, playing for the second straight session, were all square against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong Hun An going to the final hole.

Woods hit a great approach that landed near the hole and rolled out 18 feet. With a putt to win the match, Thomas curled it in for the birdie. Woods dropped his putter, stretched out his arms and gave a hard hug to Thomas.

“I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of putts,” Thomas said. “But to do it with my captain and teammate was awesome.”

Woods tied Phil Mickelson for the record by winning his 26th match in bine Presidents Cup appearances. Mickelson played in 12.

Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler capped off the late comeback. They were 2 down with three holes to go when they birdied the 16th and 17th holes to square the match against Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith. It ended with the first draw of these matches.


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