Momentum. It can swing in an instant and for the American team at the 2019 Presidents Cup, momentum may have turned in their favor after three crucial putts down the stretch on Friday.
Overall, it was a draw, as the two sides split Friday’s Foursome matches 2 ½ to 2 ½, giving the International team a 6 ½ to 3 ½ lead when Saturday’s double session begins.
The three-point lead brings the International team one day closer to snapping a two-decade winless drought.
That’s right. It’s been 21 years since the International team has won the Presidents Cup—the only time the International team has won the Presidents Cup. But with three sessions remaining, Ernie Els’s bunch remains in front, marking just the fourth time in history that the Internationals have led after two days at the Presidents Cup.
Historically, the leader through two days has gone on to win the Cup 10 out of 11 times, thought it won’t be easy for the Internationals after a late American flurry flipped the switch just before the end of Day 2
Here are three thoughts from Day 2 at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
Adam Scott/ Louis Oosthuizen def. Matt Kuchar/Dustin Johnson 3 and 2
Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele def. Joaquin Niemann/Adam Hadwin 1 up
Abraham Ancer/Marc Leishman def. Patrick Reed/Webb Simpson 3 and 2
Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas def. Hideki Matsuyama/Byeong-Hun An 1 up
Cameron Smith/Sungjae Im tied Rickie Fower/Gary Woodland
With just a few holes to play on Friday, it was becoming a very real possibility that the United States could be down 8 to 2. But something changed late in the afternoon on Friday, and one come from behind win turned into another come from behind win and that turned into a critical tie, and all of a sudden, the Americans had life.
It began with Patrick Cantlay, who along with teammate Xander Schauffele, were locked in an old-fashioned rock fight with Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann. With the match on the line, Cantlay calmly stood over a 14-foot putt on the 18th hole and drained it. And with that you could feel a bit of a shift in the Australian sand belt.
Next was Justin Thomas, who has quickly turned into the new Captain America for the U.S. Playing alongside Tiger Woods for a second consecutive day, Thomas continued his tremendous performance in team match-play competition. Faced with a 17-foot putt to win their match against Hideki Matsuyama and Byeong-Hun An, JT poured it into the cup, leading to an emotional hug and celebration with Tiger.
The 1 up victory gave the Americans another point and improved Thomas’ career team match play record to 8-1-1.
The last momentum shift may have been the most unlikely. After being two down with three holes to play against Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith, Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland rallied, birdieing 17 and 18. Fowler capped off the comeback with a tricky 5-footer to halve the match on 18, and provide the U.S. with an unexpected half point.
If the U.S. comes back to win the Cup, we’ll most certainly look back at these three gigantic putts that turned the tide.
U.S. in unchartered territory
Despite the momentum shift, let’s not forget that the Internationals lead this competition. It should be very interesting to see how the United States team responds to its three-point deficit.
Over the last 20 years, the bi-annual matches at the Presidents Cup really had become non-competitive. Yes, the Americans have always taken the event seriously, but it had almost become a given that the two teams would show up, exchange pleasantries, and then the matches would quickly turn into a rout.
The U.S. team has been down before, but not here. This deficit is unchartered territory for the Americans, and rather daunting when you learn that teams leading the Cup by three or more points after two days are a perfect 7 and 0 in Presidents Cup play.
How will Captain Tiger Woods motivate his team? What type of pairings will he trot out in Saturday morning’s Fourball matches?
As good as Tiger has been on the golf course as a player this week, his skillset as a Captain may be what determines whether or not the U.S. comes back to win this thing.
Reed vs. the Fans
The Patrick Reed saga continued to play out on Friday and the polarizing American is doing nothing to help his cause with the Australian fans. Reed answered heckling fans with a puzzling exchange on day two.
While Reed was putting out on the 11th hole, a fan yelled “miss it” from the gallery. The putt dropped, but Reed responded by cupping his hand to his ear, and then mimicked shoveling sand.
This all happening while he and Webb Simpson were 2 down in their match. A match they eventually lost 3 and 2.
Reed is now 1-5 in his last six team match-play matches and at this point just doesn’t seem to get it. Mocking his rules controversy from a week ago in the Bahamas, has only drawn more and more attention to himself. And in a team environment, the act is getting old. Reed was a distraction at the Ryder Cup in Paris, after ripping Jordan Spieth and Captain Jim Furyk, and he’s at it again in Melbourne, at a time when the Americans need to come together and rally as a group more than ever.