News & Opinion

9-minute surge highlights American rout

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Nine minutes that changed the Presidents Cup.  

It’s not the title song to a Broadway play but rather the epitaph for captain Nick Price in the 12th Presidents Cup. His International team challenged early but as has been so customary in this biennial series against the Americans succumbed to a stronger team.

The loss of 4½ of five total points Friday after losing 3½ of five points on the opening day at Liberty National Golf Club makes Price’s third try to win the cup about as likely as Alexander Hamilton winning his duel with Aaron Burr. In 1804, Burr, the vice president, killed Hamilton, the former treasury secretary, in a duel at Weehawken, N.J., eight miles from here.

The difference in that showdown was that both combatants were equally matched with dueling pistols. In this duel, the Americans hold most of the firepower.  

“This is a tough American team,” said Price, whose team trails 8-2 entering this morning’s foursomes (scores and pairings: http://bit.ly/2xzUKfk). “We all know how tough this team is. It's a very, very strong team, and we can't make a lot of mistakes. I think the guys understand that they have been penalized for the mistakes they have been making.”

At 4 p.m., the five four-ball matches were on the back nine, where the U.S. was showing cracks in what had been a solid foundation, with the Internationals leading in three matches.

In winning the past six Presidents Cups against the Internationals, the U.S. had lost only six of 30 sessions. A loss in Friday’s second session could have been pivotal for the Americans. 

In the next nine minutes, however, momentum would switch back to the home team:

* Jordan Spieth made a 7-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th as he and Patrick Reed squared their match against Adam Hadwin and Hideki Matsuyama for the first time since the sixth hole, leading to an eventual half point.

* Justin Thomas holed out from a greenside bunker for birdie on the par-4 14th as he and Rickie Fowler preserved their 2-up lead against Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, leading to an eventual 3-and-2 victory.

* After hitting his drive into the water at the par-4 12th, Charley Hoffman hit a fairway wood from 251 yards onto the green and made a 5-footer for par to win the hole. On the next hole, which Hoffman birdied, he and Kevin Chappell closed out Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel, 6 and 5.

* Dustin Johnson made a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 12 as he and Brooks Koepka opened a 2-up lead against Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Scott after having trailed through six holes. 

“I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today,” Price said, “but in all fairness to my guys, I don't think they played as well as they were capable of. It was just a tough day. You know, the guys are trying. That's all I can say. They are trying their tails off. They are just not making enough putts. Maybe not enough birdies.”

The U.S. enters today’s morning foursomes in firm control. 

“Our concern heading into this event was being complacent because everybody on this team had some good momentum, had all been playing well,” Phil Mickelson said after he and Kevin Kisner defeated Marc Leishman and Jason Day, 1 up, giving Mickelson a record 24 points in the President Cup. “We know how tough the International team is and what great players they have.”

Mickelson is at least half right. There is no complacency among the Americans.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli