Melbourne: The International team has the lead going into the final day of the Presidents Cup for the first time in 16 years, and it has a trio of rookies to thank for that.
Marc Leishman and unbeaten rookie Abraham Ancer staged a remarkable rally Saturday afternoon in foursomes, going from five down with eight holes to play to earn a most unlikely halve against Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
Byeong Hun An and Joaquin Niemann never led in the final match and scratched out another half-point against Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau.
That gave the Internationals a 10-8 lead going into Sunday singles, and a real chance to win the Presidents Cup for only the second time in its 25-year history.
“We’ve given ourselves ... a great shot to win the session tomorrow and win this cup,’’ said Adam Scott, who has been part of one tie and seven straight losses. ``I think we’ve got to be pretty happy about that. Come out tomorrow, leave it all on the golf course.”
It looked as though it could have been even larger, when the Internationals built a 9-5 lead after the morning session.
The Americans finally showed some fight, even with captain Tiger Woods sitting out for both sessions. And the caddie of Patrick Reed might have shown too much fight. He confirmed in a statement to the media that he shoved a spectator who he felt got too close to Reed while cursing him.
Kessler Karrain, who is also Reed’s brother-in-law, will not be on his bag for the final session. Reed said in a statement he respects the tour’s decision and that everyone was focused on winning the cup.
It was the second straight week of scrutiny for the Reed camp, following his rules violation of scooping sand out of the way in the Bahamas that led to a two-shot penalty.
There was plenty of drama Saturday, and all that did was set the stage for 12 singles matches.
Woods sent out Reed and Webb Simpson for the third straight time in the morning, and they delivered a dud by making only one birdie in fourballs and losing, 5 and 3, to Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan.
Even more curious was Woods, who won matches each of the first two days with Thomas, benching himself in the morning and the afternoon, and saying it was best for his team.
``I trust the guys,’’ Woods said.
Dustin Johnson finally got the board when he and Gary Woodland took down Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen in the lead match in foursomes. California rookies Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantly rallied from 3 down through 5 holes by winning three straight holes and pulling away at the end over Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im.
It was only the third time in 13 events that the International team had the lead after team matches. They had a three-point lead in South Africa in 2003, the year the matches ended in a tie. And they had a nine-point lead at Royal Melbourne in 1998, the only team to beat the Americans.