CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The International team not only stopped the bleeding after two rounds of play on Saturday, but thanks to a furious late-afternoon charge, breathed some life into its chances at the Presidents Cup.
After splitting the morning Foursomes matches, they rallied to capture three of the four afternoon Fourball points. That pulled them to within four points of the U.S. team and gives them a fighting chance to win on Sunday.
The afternoon matches started well for the International side. Sungjae Im and Sebastian Munoz handled Tony Finau and Kevin Kisner 3&2. But the excitement came when two other matches came down the 18th hole.
First up was Tom Kim, the International team’s emotional spark plug, who rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to give he and Si Woo Kim a 1-up win over Patrick Cantlay and Zander Schauffele. Kim unleashed a furious celebration as he had done several other times during the round after dropping big putts.
“I'm trying to bring energy to the team,” stated Kim of his antics. “So I feel like that's the least I can do for the team. I just want to get the crowd going. We're on American soil, and it's not easy for us internationals. So I'm trying to use it as my motivation and definitely using it as my energy. I've thrown a lot of fist pumps. It's amazing."
Not long after that dramatic ending, Cam Davis drained a 10-foot putt for a birdie on the last hole that secured a 1-up win for he and Adam Scott over Billy Horschel and Sam Burns.
“Today was a great day,” said Scott, who is playing his ninth Presidents Cup. “We were in a deep hole coming here on the bus this morning, and all of the boys dug really deep.
“We halved the morning session, and we won in afternoon session, and the momentum, I think over the course of my career in this, there hasn't been many times I've felt momentum going our way. And today, we had the momentum.”
The lone win in the afternoon for the U.S. was a 4&3 win by Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth over Hideki Matsuyama and Taylor Pendrith.
While the leaderboard gap was closed considerably, it has really only moved from the “foregone conclusion” category to the “so you’re saying there’s a chance” one. The largest comeback in Presidents Cup history came three years ago when the U.S. rallied from two points down on Sunday. In Ryder Cup history, a four-point deficit has been made up twice, once by the Americans at Brookline and another by the Europeans at Medinah.
But there’s also little doubt that there is momentum on the International side. The excitement generated by Tom Kim, all of 20 years old, and the Baron of Beige, 42-year-old Scott, is rippling through the team room. The Americans still control the event and still have the better team, but for the first time, they will start a session back on their heels.
“We've been fighting our guts out all week,” stated International team captain Trevor Immelman, “and we've just been trying to stay patient to wait for some putts to go in. And, finally, this afternoon, some putts started to fall for us.”
That didn’t go unnoticed by U.S. captain Davis Love III, who was on the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup team that came back from a four-point deficit to win. The Americans also surrendered a four-point lead to lose the Ryder Cup in 2012.
“They got some momentum today,” Love admitted. “They started making some putts, and we're going to have to turn around tomorrow and come out hot and try to get the momentum back.”
The two Canadian players remain the only golfers in the competition who have yet to contribute to their team’s point total. In the morning, Conners lost a tough Foursomes match playing with Sungjae Im, falling 4&3 to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
With the afternoon off, Conners went to the range with his coach, Derek Ingram, to try and smooth out his normally flawless swing which has been out of synch this week.
Pendrith’s afternoon loss was his third and the first time he’s failed to reach the 18th green. His play has been better than his record would indicate but he was clearly frustrated to come out on the short end of his match.
“I'm disappointed,” he admitted. “I thought that pairing that I had, Hideki's playing really well, and I'd been playing very well the first few days. So definitely a little disappointed to not to have my best stuff. I think we could have done some damage, but that's the way it goes.”
The Canadian players will get a chance to get on the board on Sunday in the singles. Conners takes on Xander Schauffele while Pendrith matches up against Tony Finau.