By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The United States will rest easy and return to Royal Melbourne with all the momentum after some 18th hole magic on the greens produced a “paradigm shift” at the Presidents Cup on Friday, Patrick Cantlay said.
Tiger Woods’s team trailed in all five foursomes matches early but roared home to share the points on day two and hold the Internationals to a 6.5-3.5 lead.
Cup debutant Cantlay set the fightback in motion when he drained a 14-foot birdie on the 18th to grab a point with Xander Schauffele.
Justin Thomas later rolled in another birdie putt from 17 feet on the last to claim victory with Woods, before Rickie Fowler secured a half-point for the Americans with a clutch five-foot putt for par, also on the 18th.
Until that giddy final hour, the United States had been “getting beat up” all day, said Cantlay.
“I looked up on the board and we were down in almost all the matches all day. Being able to flip the whole deal, we’re going to go to bed tonight feeling great and we’re going to have the
momentum going into tomorrow,” he added.
“We are still down but there are a lot of points up on the board for tomorrow … I really thought this afternoon was huge and I think it’s going to be a big paradigm shift going forward.”
The United States have won the last seven Presidents Cups, but have not trailed after day two in the biennial event since 2005.
Saturday, with four morning fourball matches and four foursomes matches in the afternoon, will have eight points up for grabs and could prove decisive.
The Americans will have to attack the morning without their playing captain Woods, who has elected to sit out of the fourballs after winning both his matches with Thomas.
Thomas will instead team up with Fowler, while Woods has decided to persist with the pairing of fiery Texan Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson after they slumped to a second successive defeat.
Reed has been heckled by spectators throughout the event after Internationals players criticized him for a controversial bunker penalty in the Bahamas last week where he was docked two strokes for improving his lie.
Woods said Reed and Simpson had handled the reception “extremely well”.
“Unfortunately they just haven’t won points. But they have done all the little things right,” added the skipper.
“It’s just a matter of having things go your way, and that’s part of playing these team sessions.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)