By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The United States rallied late in Friday’s foursomes at the Presidents Cup to hold the Internationals to a 6.5-3.5 lead after Ernie Els’ team threatened to run away with the event at Royal Melbourne.
Trailing in all five matches at one point, the Americans dug deep to share the day two honours, with captain Tiger Woods and his playing partner Justin Thomas leading from the front again.
Woods and Thomas were the only pair to score for the United States in the opening fourballs on Thursday and returned to claim a vital point in a 1-up win over Hideki Matsuyama and An Byeong-hun.
Thomas rolled in a 17-foot putt on the 18th to secure the win and celebrated wildly before being wrapped in a bear-hug by Woods.
“I’m speechless, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of big putts and hit a lot of big shots,” said Thomas.
“But to do it with my captain and unbelievable team mate to win the match, hopefully turn the tide of this Presidents Cup is awesome.”
Woods added: “We clawed our way back and JT steps up there and pours this thing in at the last hole and it gives me absolute chills, man. Absolute chills.”
Earlier, Patrick Cantlay, teamed up with Xander Schauffele, also rolled in a long birdie putt to claim victory on the 18th for a 1-up win over Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann.
Until then the Internationals had appeared set to extend their lead and give themselves a huge chance of ending a run of seven successive losses in the event.
Els said the Internationals should have been wary of letting the U.S. team back into their matches so late in the day but thought his players would have learned from it.
“This was probably good for them, showing what can happen the last couple holes,” said the captain.
“My guys learnt a lot from this afternoon. We won’t make this happen again.”
Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen got the ball rolling for the Internationals as they came back from two holes down to secure a 3&2 win over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
It was Johnson’s second successive loss after he and Gary Woodland were trounced 4&3 by Abraham Ancer and Oosthuizen in the fourballs on Thursday.
Mexican debutant Ancer and Australian Marc Leishman then combined to continue Patrick Reed’s forgettable Presidents Cup as they swotted aside ‘Captain America’ and Webb Simpson 3&2.
Fiery Texan Reed, heckled by the crowds after his controversial bunker penalty last week, made a defiant “shovelling” gesture at the gallery on the 11th but will need to dig deep to lift himself out of a 2-0 hole for the event.
Woodland and Rickie Fowler stormed back from two holes down at the 15th to secure a half-point in their match against Cameron Smith and Im Sung-jae, with Fowler rolling in a five-foot par putt on the last.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)