Internationals continue Cup blitz over USA
THe Internationals' stunning Presidents Cup blitz has continued with Ernie Els' underdogs extending their lead to four points at Royal Melbourne.
Undefeated American Justin Thomas briefly reduced the deficit to two points when he teamed with Rickie Fowler up for a three-and-two victory over Marc Leishman and Haotong Li in Saturday's opening fourball match.
But a three-and-two win for Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, and a five-and-three mauling of Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson by Hideki Matsuyama and CT Pan put the Internationals ahead 8.5 to 4.5.
The heavily favoured US team avoided going even further behind when Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau snatched half a point in the final match of the morning.
A Finau birdie at the last squared Adam Scott and Byeong Hun An after Scott was unable to convert his attempt from 3m.
The Els-captained underdogs led 6.5 to 3.5 after Friday's foursomes, ensuring the Internationals a lead entering the weekend for the first time since 2005.
Now 9-5 in front, the Internationals would have to lose all four of Saturday afternoon's foursomes to be denied the lead entering Sunday's 12 singles matches.
The Internationals last won the Presidents Cup in 1998 at Royal Melbourne.
The US will need to fight back without Tiger Woods after their inspirational captain's surprising decision to opt out of the second round of foursomes.
"You have to do what's best for the team, and I'm getting ready for the singles tomorrow," said Woods, who won both his matches on Thursday and Friday with Justin Thomas before also sitting out on Saturday morning.
While Thomas has been a shining light for the struggling US, Reed and Simpson have been a massive letdown for Woods, losing three times together.
The US-born Ancer, meanwhile, continues to be the major star for the Internationals.
The Mexican is unbeaten in three matches, living up to Scott's prediction that the 2018 Australian Open champion would be a "big points winner" for the Internationals this week.
Im and Scott have also yet to lose, each winning two matches and halving a third.
How day three of the Presidents Cup played out at Royal Melbourne between the Internationals and USA.
HOW DAY THREE OF THE PRESIDENTS CUP UNFOLDED ON SATURDAY:
Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas (USA) bt Haotong Li and Marc Leishman (Internationals) 3 and 2. Internationals lead USA 6.5 to 4.5.
- After wins with US captain Tiger Woods on the opening two days, Thomas maintained his perfect record with another imperious display. With Leishman and Li unable to buy a putt, Thomas and Fowler were never headed after making birdie on the second hole. Thomas slammed the door with his fourth birdie of the morning on 16.
Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im (Internationals) bt Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay (USA) 3 and 2. Internationals lead 7.5 to 4.5.
- Ancer by name and the answer by nature, the American-born Mexican won his third successive match to join Thomas with a 3-0 record for the week. After squaring the first seven holes, the Internationals put their foot down on the back nine to restore their team's three-point buffer.
CT Pan and Hideki Matsuyama (Internationals) bt Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed (USA) 5 and 3. Internationals lead 8.5 to 4.5.
- Pan and Matsuyama won the opening hole and never looked back as Simpson and Reed lost for the third successive day together. The hapless Americans managed only two birdies between them before the Internationals ended the misery on the 15th.
Adam Scott and Byeong Hun An (Internationals) tied Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau (USA). Internationals lead 9-5.
- Scott will rue missing a three-metre putt at the last that allowed Finau to salvage a point for the Americans with an ice-cool birdie of his own. Still unbeaten after winning his first two matches, Scott once again holed a series of clutch putts to keep the Internationals ahead for most of the round, only for Kuchar to repeatedly respond from distance.