Presidents Cup 2017

Round 4 - USA coast to 7th straight win

October 2, 2017

President Donald Trump showed up about an hour after the final match was underway Sunday at the Presidents Cup. Had he shown up much later, he might have missed the start of a long celebration for an American team that rarely had it this easy.

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This really was over before it started.

''Honestly, it was really weird being out there today, knowing there was no chance of losing,'' Dustin Johnson said after going unbeaten in five matches. ''I don't know how to explain it, but it was like playing golf with my buddies. We were going to win no matter what.''

The Americans so thoroughly defeated and demoralized the International team that they needed just one point from 12 singles matches to win the gold trophy. Daniel Berger delivered the cup-clinching moment in the fourth match.

Charley Hoffman, one of five Americans who had never experienced cup competition as a pro, chased after Berger and sprayed him with champagne, and then Berger grabbed the bottle for a guzzle before passing it over to U.S. captain Steve Stricker.

The final score was 19-11, the seventh straight victory for the Americans. They extended their dominance to 10-1-1 in this contest, if it can even be called that.

''This is a juggernaut of a U.S. team,'' said Nick Price, in his third and final stint of the International captain, all of them losses. ''They're an overpowering team that played some phenomenal golf. It was tough to watch, especially being on the receiving end.''

The only consolation was keeping the Americans from a record rout.

Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas each won their first point of the week as the International team won the singles session. That kept the Americans from becoming the first team to win every session in the Presidents Cup.

No matter. All they really wanted was the cup, and the only difference this year was who gave it to them. Trump became the first sitting president to attend the final day of the Presidents Cup, and the first to present the team with the trophy.

''They came in here riding a ton of momentum and a ton of confidence,'' Stricker said. ''It was about getting out of their way.''

So thorough was this beating that Hoffman and Kevin Chappell could have clinched the cup Saturday evening if they had won their fourballs match. Stricker sent them out at the top of his lineup to give them a chance to finish the job. Chappell nearly did, doubling over when he missed a 20-foot birdie putt and halved his match with Marc Leishman. Hoffman was beaten by Jason Day, a former world No. 1 who had gone nine straight matches without winning until a 2-and-1 victory.

Instead, the clinching match fell to Berger, who had told Sky Sports in an interview Saturday, ''Our goal from the minute we got here was to crush them as bad as we can. I hope that we close them out today and we go out there tomorrow and beat them even worse.''

After each session, as the margin kept getting larger, the talk was whether this U.S. team was as good as any. Stricker simply had 12 players who were on top of their games. Phil Mickelson at No. 30 had the lowest world ranking on this team and was the only player who didn't make it to the Tour Championship.

He also gets credit as an architect behind a new American model of developing continuity and familiarity as they move from the Ryder Cup to the Presidents Cup each year. And it helps that the young core of this team has a blast with each other.

''I've seen it, how talented these guys are, and for them to bring out the best in each other is just impressive,'' Mickelson said. ''You don't get a performance like we had this week without that little something extra, that little special something, and these guys brought it out in each other.''

Mickelson did his part by going 3-0-1 for the week. This was his 23rd consecutive team, including every Presidents Cup, and Sunday was his 100th career match. He won it on the 17th hole against Adam Hadwin.

''It was weird to have a stress-free Sunday singles,'' Mickelson said.

It was a familiar outcome for Jordan Spieth, who still hasn't won a singles match in his five Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup appearances combined. That didn't dampen his mood. So lopsided were these matches that Patrick Reed said the Americans could have sent out three players on Sunday and figured out how to get one point.

''Not if I was one of them,'' Spieth cracked.

The International team has not won since 1998 at Royal Melbourne. It looked as though it was turning the corner two years ago in South Korea when the Presidents Cup came down to the final two matches in a thriller. This was a snoozer.

''It was a bit of a slaughtering this week,'' Scott said. ''We've got to stand up and take our (butt) whipping like men and walk out of here with our heads high.''

They have to wait two years to try again at Royal Melbourne.

Day 3 - USA on brink of victory

September 30, 2017

The International team lost just about everything but its sense of humor.

A long and demoralizing day at the Presidents Cup ended with Anirban Lahiri making two clutch birdies in a fourballs match that spared his team the indignity of watching the Americans celebrate another victory - on Saturday, no less.

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From the sun rising over the Manhattan skyline until the chill of twilight at Liberty National, the Americans poured it on with such frightening force that they were one match away from clinching the cup one day early. The International team went 13 straight matches without winning until Lahiri and Kim won on the 18th hole.

''They got a standing ovation when they walked in our team room tonight,'' International captain Nick Price said with a smile. ''First time we had seen a match go our way for a long time.''

And that means it will be a short Sunday.

The Americans had a 14 1/2-3 1/2 lead and need only one point from the 12 singles matches on Sunday.

This is a powerful U.S. team playing to its full potential, and the result is the biggest blowout since the Presidents Cup began in 1994.

Phil Mickelson set a Presidents Cup record with his 25th victory, breaking the record set by Tiger Woods. Mickelson hit two wedges into birdie range in the morning foursomes session with Kevin Kisner, when the Americans won three matches and halved the other.

Jordan Spieth's best intentions cost him a hole in a ruling rarely seen in match play, though that didn't matter. All that did was inspire Spieth and Patrick Reed to win yet another match. They are 8-1-3 as a partnership in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.

Justin Thomas made another big birdie on the 14th hole and cupped his hand to his ear, covered by a beanie in the chill, to fire up a crowd that didn't need much help. Even in the lone loss of the day, the Americans made it hard on them. Charley Hoffman chipped in from short of the 17th green and body-slammed partner Kevin Chappell, a celebration that lasted only long enough for Lahiri to match his birdie with a 20-foot putt and keep a 1-up lead.

Lahiri and Kim were 1 up playing the par-3 18th, and when Lahiri chipped to 3 feet and both Americans were in the bunker, they chose not to concede Lahiri's putt until after Chappell had made par.

It was meaningless in the big picture, yet it illustrated clearly - along with all the celebrations - that no victory is too big for this U.S. team.

''Our goal coming in was to try to win every session, and we've done that up till now,'' Daniel Berger said after teaming with Thomas for his first point of the week. ''Tomorrow, we're going to go out and try to do the exact same thing.''

The 11-point margin is the largest going into the 12 singles matches, breaking the International record of nine points set in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, the only time it has ever won the Presidents Cup.

While the outcome was inevitable, this day still had its moment, none more peculiar than the 12th hole .

Jason Day was already down for a birdie. Spieth had 12 feet for his birdie, while Louis Oosthuizen hit his drive behind the green on the reachable par 4 and had a shot at eagle. The ball raced by the hole and was headed down the slope with water on the other side, and the partisan American crowd was urging it to keep going.

Spieth had heard enough and reached over and scooped away the moving ball with his putter.

Match referee Andy McFee, a top rules chief on the European Tour, stepped in and informed Spieth that it was a violation of the first rule in golf (Rule 1-2): ''A player must not take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play.''

No player would ever do that in stroke play (though John Daly and Kirk Triplett did it to their golf balls on U.S. Open greens). Spieth figured the International team already had its birdie. Even so, the rule meant Spieth was disqualified from the hole, even as Oosthuizen and Day protested.

''I'm sorry for trying to do the right thing,'' Spieth said to McFee, a mixture of sarcasm and frustration.

That gave Day and Oosthuizen a 1-up lead that lasted only three holes. Spieth birdied the 15th to square the match, Reed hit a tee shot into the wind and along a ridge to 5 feet for birdie on the 16th, and Spieth birdied the 17th to close them out.

Day went 0-4-1 in the Presidents Cup two years ago. He heads into singles with a 0-3-1 mark at Liberty National. Hideki Matsuyama has failed to win a match. Adam Scott is 0-3 and sat out the Saturday afternoon session.

Dustin Johnson extended his record to 4-0 this week, teaming with Matt Kuchar for an easy victory in foursomes and riding U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and his hot putter for a 3-and-2 victory that put the Americans on the cusp of victory.

The celebration will have to wait.

Lahiri missed a 3 1/2-foot putt on the 18th hole that cost the International team a rare victory in South Korea two years ago.

This time he saved his team, if only for a day.

Day 2 - USA stretch lead to 8-2

September 30, 2017

Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner rehearsed the dance from ''Three Amigos.'' The only question was whether to use it at the Presidents Cup, and as the veteran of 23 team events, Mickelson concluded it would need to be a big moment.

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Their match was all square on the 18th hole Friday. Mickelson was 12 feet away for birdie. A victory would give the Americans a record lead.

''If this putt goes in,'' Mickelson said he told his rookie partner, ''we're going to dance.''

This turned out to be one big dance party for an American team that has gone nearly two decades without losing. They hammered the International teams on the back nine to go unbeaten in fourballs and build an 8-2 lead, the largest margin after two sessions since the Presidents Cup began in 1994.

Mickelson had his 24th match victory to tie the Presidents Cup record held by Tiger Woods, and he set a record with his 10th victory in fourballs.

As for that dance ?

It looked a little awkward, though Mickelson did slightly better than when he cropped most of his face out of a selfie he took during the opening ceremony with the last three U.S. presidents.

''I'm clearly the worst selfie taker. I'm the worst 'Three Amigos' dancer,'' Mickelson said. ''But I can putt.''

So can his teammates, who have followed the script set out by U.S. captain Steve Stricker to win every session. They won handily in the other three matches. The other match was a halve, but even in that one, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin had a 2-up lead with four holes to play until Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed rallied. The Americans nearly won that one, too, except that Spieth narrowly missed birdie putts on the last two holes.

''Our guys stepped up again,'' Stricker said. ''They have a knack for doing that. To finish like that is huge for us going into tomorrow.''

Mathematically, the International team could be done Saturday, the first day of a double session - four matches of foursomes in the morning, following by four matches of fourballs in the afternoon. The Americans are 7 1/2 points away from clinching the cup.

''I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today,'' Price said.

He also saw his team play its worst golf on the back nine at Liberty National. The Americans won 13 holes on the back nine. The Internationals won three.

Price was not about to give up, hopeful of gaining some momentum in the morning and riding it into the afternoon ahead of the 12 singles matches on the final day.

''We're only 10 points through 30. There's 20 points left,'' Price said. ''We are not laying down. These guys are going to come out fighting over the next two days, and especially tomorrow.''

Justin Thomas, already with a big year behind him as a major champion and the FedEx Cup champion, teamed with Rickie Fowler for another easy victory. They have trailed only one hole in their two matches, and they became the first partnership to beat Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.

They took the lead for good when Fowler made a 15-foot birdie putt on the third hole, and then Thomas produced the loudest cheer of the afternoon at a pivotal moment on the 14th hole. Oosthuizen hit his approach to 6 feet, while both Americans missed the green. From the left bunker, Thomas blasted out perfectly and watched it drop in for a birdie that kept the International team from cutting the deficit to 1 down.

Thomas birdied the next hole, and his bunker shot on the 16th hit the pin and somehow stayed out.

The shortest match of the day belonged to a pair of American rookies, Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman, who sat out the foursomes matches in the opening session. They were 3 up after four holes against Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri and never let up in a 6-and-5 victory.

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, close friends and the last two U.S. Open champions, took their first lead on the par-3 10th with Koepka's birdie, and Johnson showed rare emotion on his final two birdies in a 3-and-2 victory over Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas.

Scott set a record of his own - it was his 19th loss in the Presidents Cup, breaking the record held by Ernie Els.

The Americans have a 9-1-1 lead in the series, their only loss coming in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. But it has at least been close after the opening two sessions, with neither side leading by more than two points since 1998.

''We're going to keep the pedal down,'' Hoffman said. ''These guys are going to keep pushing us. We're not going to get complacent where we're at right now.''

Day 1 - USA take first day lead

September 29, 2017

The opening ceremony at the Presidents Cup was unlike any other in golf with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on the first tee.

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The results were all too familiar.

The Americans led at some point in all five of the foursomes matches Thursday at Liberty National. They won the first three. And when they jumped on a ferry to take them across the New York Harbor to their Manhattan hotel, they had the lead.

Behind a new tandem of Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, and an old one of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, the Americans jumped out to a 3 1/2-1 1/2 lead. It was the sixth consecutive time they led after the opening session in an event they haven't lost in two decades.

''Jordan mentioned that this first session is pretty critical and we need to go out there and take care of business,'' Fowler said. ''I feel like as a team, we did a really good job of that. If we can do the same thing tomorrow and win another session, it puts us in a great position.''

Thomas and Fowler lost only two holes in a 6-and-4 victory over Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel. Spieth and Reed improved to 6-1-2 as a tandem in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Spieth holed a 35-foot putt on the 11th hole right when it looked as if Emiliano Grillo and Si Woo Kim might gain some momentum. Instead, the match was over three holes later, 5 and 4.

Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar remained unbeaten in four matches, not taking the lead until the 16th hole and making it stand in a 1-up victory over Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas.

''We've been off to poor starts for a while on Thursdays,'' International captain Nick Price said. ''We have a resilient team. They have this ability to come back and bounce back, and they have done it. They did it last time in Korea.''

Indeed, the Americans had a 4-1 lead after the first session two years ago, and that Presidents Cup came down to the final match.

Phil Mickelson, playing in his 23rd consecutive team competition, ended the tough, wind-swept afternoon at Liberty National by missing an 8-foot par putt, or the U.S. lead would have been even greater. He and Kevin Kisner were 1 down with two holes remaining to Jason Day and Marc Leishman, so a half-point wasn't bad.

Mickelson's only complaint was that he botched his selfie with the presidents, with barely his head showing.

For the most part, everything else went the Americans' way.

The lone bright spot for the International team was Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who improved to 5-0 as a tandem. The South African duo pulled away for a 3-and-1 victory over U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

''Listen, we're a half-point better than last time, so that's a big up for us,'' Grace said. ''We've got a great team. We all want it really badly. ... I'm sure we're going to have a good night and then going to come back tomorrow blazing.''

The stars on this day didn't hit a shot.

The leader of every country where the Presidents Cup is held are invited to be honorary chairman, but this was a first - three U.S. presidents together at this event, sitting together in a box on the first tee and then posing with the trophy, the players and their wives.

''I was looking forward to this Presidents Cup for a very long time, and I didn't expect all the presidents to be there,'' Schwartzel said. ''Just to get to meet them was a dream come true for me. Then to hit that first tee shot with the wind pumping off the right was quite intimidating.''

The Americans have a 9-1-1 lead in the series, their lone loss in 1998 at Royal Melbourne a few weeks before Christmas.

The gusts topped 20 mph and felt even stronger on exposed areas of Liberty National, which sits across New York Harbor from Manhattan.

The par-3 10th hole was so difficult to judge the wind that Scott hit a tee shot that sailed over the green into a hazard, while Spieth in the match behind him came up some 60 feet short of the hole in a bunker.

Johnson and Kuchar didn't make a single bogey, remarkable in the format and in the wind, and they still didn't take the lead until Johnson's tee shot on the par-3 16th with a strong wind at his back stopped 5 feet away. Scott came up short, and then missed a 6-foot par putt.

''In alternate shot, in these conditions, not to make a bogey and for us to just win 1 up, that's a heck of a battle that we had with those guys,'' Kuchar said.

Friday features five matches of fourballs, followed by a full day of foursomes and fourballs Saturday and the decisive Sunday singles.

''There's still a long, long ways to go,'' U.S. captain Steve Stricker said. ''But we very much liked the day and the way it started.''

Scores

Final score: USA 19 - 11 International