Team USA rolled to a 4-0-1 record in Friday’s four-ball matches, opening a dominating 8-2 lead at the 2017 Presidents Cup.
There are three things in this life that are certain: death, taxes, and the American team dominating the Presidents Cup. That story hasn’t changed this year at Liberty National, as the United States crushed the International side on Friday, opening a massive 8-2 lead.
It’s not like the team had anything to make up for from Thursday’s opener, of course. The first three matches from that day had all gone to the Americans, and the lone blemish on the scoreboard belonged to the rookie team of Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka. The two Florida State products ran into the seasoned South African pairing of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, falling 3&1 in what had been a close match early on.
Opening the second day with a 3.5-1.5 lead, American captain Steve Stricker made very few changes to his lineup. Friday saw Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, who both sat out Thursday’s foursomes, team up against Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel. Matt Kuchar and Daniel Berger were given a day off ahead of a busy Saturday slate.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the day’s key action.
Patrick Reed/Jordan Spieth v. Adam Hadwin/Hideki Matsuyama, halved
The opening matchup on Friday was surely meant to be a tone-setter for both sides. Hadwin was playing his first Presidents Cup match alongside one of the world’s best players in Hideki Matsuyama. Meanwhile, Stricker smartly rolled out the duo of Spieth and Reed, who always step up when they’re wearing the colors of Team USA.
Anybody would have had a hard time with the Americans, but when they got out of the gates slowly, the Internationals seized their opportunity. All square through four, Matsuyama birdied Nos. 6 and 8 to go 2-up through 10.
Spieth won the 11th, but Hadwin would open the lead again on No. 13. Still 2-up with just four to play, it looked as though the Americans would drop the opening match in heartbreaking fashion. However, at this point, we should know better than to count either of these stars out of anything.
Reed began the comeback with a spectacular birdie on the par-4 15th. Not to be outdone, Spieth went pin-huntin on the par-3 16th, and stuck his tee shot tight, about six feet from the hole. The ensuing birdie would get the match back to All Square with just two holes to go.
Both teams traded pars on 17 and 18, and the match was halved. While both teams would add the half point to their scoreboard, it had to feel like a tremendous loss for the International team that had the Americans’ marquee pair on the ropes. Things wouldn’t get any better the rest of the day.
Blowouts, close matches all break for Team USA on day two
Of the three American wins that ended early, only one was particularly competitive. Hoffman and Chappell – presumably well rested – wiped the floor with Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel. Five up at the turn, Schwartzel and Lahiri earned a stay of execution by winning No. 10, but Hoffman took 12 and 13 for the 6&5 victory.
The power team of Koepka and Johnson took a little longer to find their stride, dropping two holes early but making the turn all square with Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas. Koepka’s birdie on the tough par-3 10th got the momentum rolling red, and with wins on four of the final seven holes, another full point went to the Americans.
Newly minted FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas paired up with #SB2K buddy Rickie Fowler to take on Grace and Oosthuizen. The Americans started hot and never looked back, highlighted by an outstanding bunker shot from Thomas late in the round.
However, the award for “Match of the Day” goes to the third of the day, Kevin Kisner and Phil Mickelson versus the International team of Jason Day and Marc Leishman.
While some doubted Mickelson’s addition to this year’s roster, it was today where he may have fully proven his value. Leishman came out swinging, making birdie on two of the first three holes to put the Americans in an early deficit. Mickelson and Kisner combined to halve the other seven on the front nine, but time didn’t seem to be in their favor.
A few breaks started to come the Americans’ way on the back nine. Kisner took the par-4 11th with a birdie then nailed a clutch 20-footer on 15 to square the match late. The match came down to No. 18, and Phil had more of that magic with the putter, closing the match out in style.
You can always count on Phil to keep things loose. Two years ago, he and Zach Johnson shared a simple, gentlemanly handshake. This year, it was the “Three Amigos” dance. If that helps keep any of the six Presidents Cup rookies, including Kisner, even a little bit more comfortable, it’s all worth it.
Oh, and winning never hurts, either.
Team USA will be fighting to close out the Presidents Cup on Saturday
With eight points through two days, the Americans need just 7.5 to bring home the cup. While the conclusion seems to be written in stone already, the most important question is whether or not the Internationals can even slow down this red, white and blue juggernaut.
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Don’t get it wrong, I don’t expect this tournament to end on Saturday, but even the concept that it could is incredible. International Captain Nick Price has done everything he can to keep his team’s spirits high, heading to a nearly certain doom.
To that end, Price will be mixing things up on Saturday morning, rolling out two new pairings alongside two established teams. Grace/Oosthuizen and Leishman/Day will stay together, while the Adams – Aussie Scott and Canadian Hadwin – roll out ahead of Jhonattan Vegas and Emiliano Grillo.
Stricker, on the other hand, is sticking with the tried and true. He’ll open again with Spieth/Reed, followed by Kuchar/DJ, Kisner/Mickelson and Fowler/Thomas. Barring something crazy, expect the afternoon four-ball to send Chappell and Hoffman out first, with the morning pairings somewhere behind.
The Cup likely won’t be won until Sunday, but if you’re looking for the best overall day of golf in this Presidents Cup, you won’t want to miss the action on Moving Day.