Presidents Cup 2017: Americans win four out of five four-ball matches on Friday to take commanding 8-2 lead
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — It was imperative for captain Nick Price's International team to get off to a good start in Friday's four-ball matches at the Presidents Cup, and they did just that. Early on, they led in three matches, and it looked as though they may flip the momentum in their favor. Things changed very quickly, and had it not been for a lipped out birdie putt on the 18th from Jordan Spieth, it would have been a clean sweep for Steve Stricker's American team, who take a commanding 8-2 lead into the weekend at Liberty National.
After a shaky start for Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin, they righted the ship thanks to a strong showing from the No. 3 golfer in the world. Matsuyama made birdies at the sixth and eighth holes to give he and Hadwin a 2-up lead, which they regained at the 14th hole after Spieth and Reed had just cut the deficit to 1 down. The Americans won the next two holes, and nearly won the last, stealing a half a point.
Before that happened, Presidents Cup rookies Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell had already disposed of Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel on the 13th hole, winning the match, 6 and 5. It was a dominating performance, one that saw the Internationals win just one hole the entire match. South Africa's Schwartzel is now 0-2 this week and has yet to reach the 15th hole.
Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler had arguably the toughest opponents of the day, the undefeated Presidents Cup pair of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen. While the South African super team played well, Fowler and Thomas proved to be too much, never trailing in the match and closing it out on the 16th hole to win 3 and 2. Thomas, like he did all season, put on a show, holing a bunker shot for birdie at the 14th, draining a seven-footer for another birdie at the 15th, and nearly holing out another bunker shot at the par-3 16th. Fowler and Thomas, who are now 2-0 as a team, gave the U.S. a 6-2 lead with two matches remaining.
As Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka began seeing the red flags cover the scoreboard, they took over their match on the back nine against Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Scott. Birdies at 15 and 16 from Johnson closed out the match 3 and 2, making Jason Day and Marc Leishman's match against Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner a must-win.
Unfortunately for the Aussies, Mickelson and Kisner fed off the energy, coming back from a 2-down deficit after 10 holes to square the match at the par-4 15th. All square on the 18th green, Leishman and Mickelson each faced birdie putts to win the match, and Mickelson's found the cup first. Leishman's slid by, giving the U.S. the full point and a six-point lead heading into the weekend. It's the largest lead the U.S. has had after two sessions in Presidents Cup history.