Dom­i­nant Amer­i­cans on cusp of early cel­e­bra­tion with Cup

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Phil Mick­el­son set the Pres­i­dents Cup record on Satur­day with his 25th vic­tory, and the Amer­i­cans moved to the cusp of their most dom­i­nant per­for­mance.

With the four­somes match all square, Mick­el­son dropped in two wedges to short range for birdies on the 15th and 17th holes and Kevin Kis­ner con­verted the birdies for a 2-and-1 vic­tory over Jhonat­tan Ve­gas and Emil­iano Grillo.

The Amer­i­cans won three matches and halved the other in Satur­day morn­ing four­somes, giv­ing them an 111⁄2-21⁄2 lead. They headed off into four matches of four­balls in the af­ter­noon with a math­e­mat­i­cal chance to win the cup be­fore the to­day sin­gles.

“We're just trying to win ev­ery ses­sion,” Justin Thomas said. “We know that if we win ev­ery ses­sion ev­ery day, then that's going to be good enough to get it done.” It has been more than enough. For the sec­ond straight ses­sion, the In­ter­na­tional team failed to win a match. Louis Oosthuizen and Bran­den Grace halved the last seven holes and earned a half-point against Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

Jor­dan Spi­eth and Pa­trick Reed were in a tight match with Ja­son Day and Marc Leish­man un­til they birdied the 12th, Spi­eth hit a wedge to 6 feet that Reed made on the 13th, and Day drove into a bunker on the 14th that led to bo­gey and a third straight loss. The Amer­i­cans won the last four holes.

Dustin Johnson re­mained un­de­feated at Lib­erty Na­tional when he teamed with Matt Kuchar and ran away from the sloppy play of Adam Scott and Adam Had­win, who had three dou­ble bo­geys. Scott now has lost 20 matches in the Pres­i­dents Cup, a record for ei­ther team.

Ve­gas and Grillo brought the pas­sion, and it still wasn't enough. Their match against Kis­ner and Mick­el­son was tied at the turn and stayed that way un­til the 14th hole, when Grillo ran into trou­ble off the tee, Ve­gas had to lay up and they made bo­gey.

Mick­el­son took it from there. He hit a wedge to 2 feet on the 15th for a 2-up lead, only for Grillo to drill his tee shot to 2 feet on the par-3 16th. On the 17th, with a pin in the back on a tiered green with se­vere slopes, Mick­el­son hit wedge to the back fringe and it spun down to about 6 feet. Ve­gas nar­rowly missed his birdie at­tempt, and Kis­ner rolled in the birdie for the vic­tory.

There was no dance this time, un­like Satur­day, when they re-en­acted the cel­e­bra­tory dance from the movie “Three Ami­gos.” The Pres­i­dents Cup at that point was out of hand, and ev­ery­one knew it.

“This is prob­a­bly the best U.S. team ever,” Charl Schwartzel said. “And they're on form.”

It takes 151⁄2 points to win, and the Amer­i­cans could reach that with a sweep of four­balls. The record mar­gin was in 2000, when the Amer­i­cans won 211⁄2-101⁄2 with 32 matches played. Now there are only 30 matches.

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