While the Americans put themselves in position to make a move on Saturday afternoon at the Presidents Cup, it wasn’t quite enough.
After looking at a possible clean sweep in the afternoon wave, the United States team halved a pair of matches late in the third round of the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. The International Team, thanks to those key half points, leads 10-8 headed into Sunday’s singles matches — a great position while looking for its first win in the biennial event since 1998.
Though Tiger Woods remained in the captain role, there was plenty of exciting golf action throughout the day — and yet another altercation involving Patrick Reed — in Australia.
Justin Thomas stays perfect early
Justin Thomas’ week at Royal Melbourne has been fantastic, and that didn’t change on Saturday morning.
Thomas and Rickie Fowler cruised to a dominant 3 and 2 win, never letting Marc Leishman and Haotong Li grab the lead in their four-balls match. Fowler picked up the lead first with a solid par putt on No. 5, and Thomas extended it with a birdie on No. 8. He pushed it to three on No. 11, too, after sticking a chip right next to the cup.
Finally, like he did on Friday, Thomas ended the match with a clutch birdie putt on the final hole to keep his perfect 3-0 streak alive and score the first point of the day for the United States team.
International Team takes off again
While Thomas and Fowler looked good on Saturday morning, they were the lone bright spot for the Americans.
Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im put Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele away after a dominant back nine in their match. Following an Im birdie on No. 10, Ancer closed out the round with three straight birdies to remain perfect on the week.
C.T. Pan and Hideki Matsuyama followed suit, easily knocking off a struggling-Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson after going 3-up through the first seven holes.
Ben An and Adam Scott nearly picked up another point for the International Team, too, leading Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar through the first 16 holes. Yet back-to-back birdies from Finau brought the Americans back to halve the match, marking up a much-needed point heading into the afternoon.
Patrick Reed’s caddie punches fan
Reed struggled on Saturday morning, and was benched for the afternoon wave after starting out 0-3.
However his troubles down under, it seems, have taken a much darker turn.
Reed’s caddie and brother-in-law Keddler Karain got into an “altercation” with a spectator at Royal Melbourne, and punched a fan who allegedly told Reed “You f---ing suck.” It’s just the latest in a wave of criticism Reed has received this week after a blatant cheating incident in The Bahamas last week.
"We have been known for having fun with some good banter, but after hearing several fans in Australia for 3 days some had taken it too far, I had enough,” Karain said in a statement, in part. “And this gentleman was one of them.
"I got off the cart and shoved him, said a couple things, probably a few expletives. Security came and I got back in (the) cart and left. I don't think there's one caddy I know that could blame me."
Karain will not caddie for Reed on Sunday.
An afternoon push, late implosion
The United States nearly pulled out a clean sweep in the afternoon foursomes, which would have made a big dent in the International Team heading into Sunday’s final round.
That dream, though, fell apart fast.
Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland, after falling down early on the front nine, rallied back to beat Scott and Louis Oothuizen 2 and 1 to put a point on the board for the United States. Cantlay and Schauffele rallied back from 3-down late to knock off Im and Cameron Smith behind an impressive birdie streak from Cantlay, too, picking up another point for the Americans.
Fowler and Thomas paired up again for the afternoon wave, and looked like they were well on their way to a win to complete the sweep. The duo jumped 4-up through the first five holes of their match against Ancer and Leishman, and pushed it to 5-up through 10. They were in total control.
That, however, is when Fowler and Thomas fell apart.
Ancer and Leishman carded four birdies over the next seven holes, forcing the match to the 18th. Then, after an errant drive landed Fowler in the trees, the pair ended up conceding the hole to tie the match — giving the International Team a key half-point.
Though it wasn’t as drastic, Finau and Kuchar also halved their match with Joaquin Niemann and An after going 2-up with just five holes to go.
The Presidents Cup will resume on Saturday afternoon in Australia with 12 singles matches. No team has ever rallied back to win the cup while down at the start of the final round, either, putting the International Team in a great position to win just its second Presidents Cup.
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