Amer­i­cans run­ning away with Pres­i­dents Cup

The Citizens' Voice - - Major League Baseball - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Phil Mick­el­son rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to cap off an­other big day for the Amer­i­cans and set a record for the largest lead af­ter two ses­sions in Pres­i­dents Cup his­tory.

An­other day like this and that’s what the In­ter­na­tional team will be — his­tory.

Mick­el­son and Kis­ner never led against Ja­son Day and Marc Leish­man un­til the par3 18th hole Fri­day at Lib­erty Na­tional. Mick­el­son poured in his birdie putt, and Leish­man missed his from about the same range.

About the only thing that went wrong was the cel­e­bra­tion. Mick­el­son, who on Thurs­day cropped him­self out of a selfie with the last three U.S. pres­i­dents, missed a move in the “Three Ami­gos” dance with Kis­ner.

“I’m clearly the worst selfie taker. I’m the worst ‘Three Ami­gos’ dancer. But I can putt,” Mick­el­son said.

Mick­el­son, who has played in all 12 Pres­i­dents Cups, has 24 match vic­to­ries to tie the record set by Tiger Woods in eight ap­pear­ances. Woods was look­ing on in his role as an as­sis­tant to U.S. cap­tain Steve Stricker.

And that’s about all the In­ter­na­tional team could do.

Hideki Mat­suyama and Adam Had­win were 2 up with four holes to play against Jor­dan Spi­eth and Pa­trick Reed and had to set­tle for a halve. Even that felt like a small vic­tory for the In­ter­na­tional team be­cause Spi­eth had birdie putts on the fi­nal two holes that nar­rowly missed.

Justin Thomas, al­ready with a big year be­hind him as a ma­jor cham­pion and the FedEx Cup cham­pion, teamed with Rickie Fowler for an­other easy vic­tory. They have trailed only one hole in their two matches, and they be­came the first part­ner­ship to beat Louis Oosthuizen and Bran­den Grace.

They took the lead for good when Fowler made a 15-foot birdie putt on the third hole, and then Thomas pro­duced the loud­est cheer of the af­ter­noon at a piv­otal mo­ment on the 14th hole. Oosthuizen hit his ap­proach to 6 feet, while both Amer­i­cans missed the green. From the left bunker, Thomas blasted out per­fectly and watched in drop in for a birdie that kept the In­ter­na­tional team from cut­ting the deficit to 1 down.

Thomas birdied the next hole, and his bunker shot on the 16th hit the pin and some­how stayed out.

The short­est match of the day be­longed to a pair of Amer­i­can rook­ies, Kevin Chap­pell and Charley Hoff­man, who sat out the four­somes matches in the open­ing ses­sion. They were 3 up af­ter four holes against Charl Schwartzel and Anir­ban Lahiri and never let up in a 6-and-5 vic­tory.

Dustin John­son and Brooks Koepka, close friends and the last two U.S. Open cham­pi­ons, took their first lead on the par-3 10th with Koepka’s birdie, and John­son showed rare emo­tion on his fi­nal two birdies in a 3-and-2 vic­tory over Adam Scott and Jhonat­tan Ve­gas.

Just like the open­ing ses­sion, the matches looked as though they could go ei­ther way un­til the back nine. At one point, the In­ter­na­tional team led in three matches, only for all of them to turn.

In the five matches, the Amer­i­cans won 13 holes on the back nine, com­pared to just three for the In­ter­na­tional team.

The Amer­i­cans have a 9-11 lead in the se­ries, their only loss com­ing in 1998 at Royal Mel­bourne. But it has at least been close af­ter the open­ing two ses­sions, with nei­ther side lead­ing by more than two points since 1998.

With an 8-2 lead, the Amer­i­cans have a math­e­mat­i­cal chance to clinch on Satur­day, which fea­tures four matches of four­somes in the morn­ing and four matches of four­balls in the af­ter­noon.

JULIO CORTEZ / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phil Mick­el­son re­acts af­ter mak­ing his putt on the 18th hole dur­ing the four-ball matches in the Pres­i­dents Cup on Fri­day at Lib­erty Na­tional Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

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