Stage set for grandstand finish to the Presidents Cup
THE stage is set for a grandstand finish to the 2019 Presidents Cup after an afternoon of high drama and twists and turns at Royal Melbourne.
Team USA finally won a session to reduce a four-point deficit to just two, but it was an extraordinary collapse from American superstars Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler that left golf fans gobsmacked and with the Internationals in sight of a shock first triumph since 1998.
Thomas and Fowler squandered a five-hole advantage with eight to play to square their foursomes match againts Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer, who remains unbeaten on his Cup debut after the extraordinary comeback.
Leishman and his Mexican partner looked down and out against the US heavyweights midway through the second foursome session at Royal Melbourne on Saturday.
The Americans were running hot in posting three birdies en route to a five-up lead, which they held until the 10th hole.
Leishman and Ancer, who had won his three previous matches, then stormed back with two birdies as they clinched four of the next seven holes to close the lead to one and set up a thrilling finale.
World No.4 Thomas then pulled his drive off the par-four 18th tee, with the ball landing in the rough under a low-hanging branch.
Playing alternate shots, Fowler somehow managed to dig the ball back out on to the fairway.
But Leishman pulled off the shot of his tournament, sending their approach to little more than a metre before the Americans conceded the hole.
The half point is a huge boost for Leishman heading into the final day of singles with the world No.28 having had a mixed bag of results, with two losses and a win together with the tie.
Fellow Aussie Adam Scott's dream Presidents Cup run came to an end with a tie and a loss on day three.
Posting wins on the opening two days to help the Internationals to a commanding lead, it appeared Scott was on track to finally crack a Presidents Cup victory in his nine appearance.
In the morning fourball session, Scott and his Korean playing partner Byeong Hun An held a one-up lead until the final hole when American Tony Finau then iced a 2m birdie putt to tie the match.
He and Louis Oosthuizen then fell to Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland two and one in the foursomes.
"We definitely got turned over this afternoon," Scott said.
"We had a couple lip-outs on 11 and 12 and put us two-down and we just couldn't quite get back in it unfortunately."
Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im led three up early in their showdown with Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay but three successive birdies meant their lead fell away with the Americans going on to chalk up a two-and-one win.
Leishman and Ancer's priceless half point ensures the Internationals will carry the lead into Sunday's deciding singles for the first time since last winning the cup 21 years ago, also at Royal Melbourne.
The Internationals' 10-8 advantage leaves the heavily favoured and star-studded US outfit needing at least 7.5 points from the 12 possible from Sunday's singles session to win the Cup for the eighth time in a row.
After seeing his team lose the morning fourball session 2.5 to 1.5 to trail 9-5 overall, US playing captain Tiger Woods was questioned for not picking himself in the foursomes.
When Johnson and Woodland beat Scott and Oosthuizen two and one, and Schauffele and Cantlay downed Smith and Im by the same scoreline, Woods, though, was looking like a genius.
But suddenly, the Internationals have all the momentum after Joaquin Niemann and Byeong Hun An had also charged back from two down with five to play to rescue half a point against Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau in the final match of the day.