CHARLOTTE, NC – The matches on Friday at the Presidents’ Cup became a little closer. And then Max Homa made two big shots that gave the Americans the same result.
In his third straight four-ball match over the distance, Homa birdied the 17th hole 12 feet to take a 1-up lead. After Taylor Pendrith gave the International team hope with a birdie on the 18th, Homa matched him with another 12-foot birdie putt for the win.
That gave the Americans another 4-1 lead in the session, extending their lead to 8-2 heading into the weekend at Quail Hollow and making another U.S. win in this one-sided affair inevitable.
For the second time in a row on home soil, the powerful American team plays a doubleheader on Saturday with a mathematical chance to win the cup.
“It’s crazy,” Homa said after he and Billy Horschel defeated the Canadian duo of Pendrith and Corey Conners. “Going down to the 18th two days in a row, man, what a day. Billy made some amazing shots. I just wanted to help him.”
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in attendance at Quail Hollow, and while it looked for a moment that the International team might play with it, the deficit at the end of the day was as dire as ever.
The only point for the international team came from two draws.
Scotty Scheffler made a 10-foot birdie putt to win the 18th, and only a few blades of grass kept him from falling as he and Sam Burns made it two-up with Sonjae Im and Sebastian Muñas.
Cameron Young hit a 25-footer for the game-winning shot that missed. He and Kevin Kisner settled for half a point against Mitt Pereira and Christian Bezuidenhout in the only match the International ever led.
The American team’s strength came from a pair of dynamic partnerships. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schaufele had a 5-up advantage at the turn and easily held on for a 3-and-2 win over Hideki Matsuyama and Tom Kim.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas improved to 6-2 as a team in Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup matches, leading from the fourth hole in a 2-1-1 victory over Australian pair Adam Scott and Cameron Davis.
As usual, Spieth and Thomas were far from boring.
They were 2 up with five holes left when Thomas hit a 6-iron to 2 feet on the par-3 14th over water into the back pin for birdie. And just when it looked like the international side might be closing in, Spieth started doing his tricks.
His approach on the 15th hole — the 18th hole when Quail Hollow hosts the Wells Fargo Championship — was headed for a creek when he hit some rocks and moved down the green into the rough. He chipped 15 feet and then holed out to halve the hole.
Built as much by their friendship as by their games, Spieth-Thomas and Cantlay-Schauffele are 2-0 this week and tough to beat no matter who the international team sends against them.
The passion came from the Presidents Cup rookies.
Homma’s goal all year was to make the team, and he was among six captains selected by Davis Love III. Homa won twice last season and started the new season with an unlikely title defense at Silverado in the Fortinet Championship when he birdied the final hole and Danny Willett three-putted from 4 feet.
He flew across the country from California and looked in good spirits, especially at the end of the day with another point on the board for the Americans. It was the second day in a row that Homa played in the finals, meaning the entire US team was there to see it.
“It’s surreal to have 10 of the best golfers I’ve ever seen in my life watching you and you have to help them,” Homa said. “It’s a lot of weight. But it’s also a lot of fun.”
Captain Trevor Immelman and his international squad, which was assembled two weeks ago, have had less fun after more players – British Open champion Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann among them – moved to Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
Saturday is key in every Presidents Cup, and it could be the international team’s last chance to get back into the game with four matches over four in the morning and four over four in the afternoon.
To win the cup, the Americans would need to win seven of those and halve the other, which sounds unlikely except for who they have and how they play. They came close to doing so at Liberty National in 2017.
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