The Loop

Pressure ratchets up on Internationals

November 18, 2011

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Attention Fred Couples. Might want to post on U.S. team bulletin board:

"Tomorrow is a really big day. There's 10 points on offer tomorrow. Could be 15-7 by the end of tomorrow."

So assessed Australia's Geoff Ogilvy Friday night as he and his International teammates girded for a long day Saturday at Royal Melbourne GC. Ogivly, of course, didn't say it would be a 15-7 score by sundown Saturday, after five foursomes and five four-ball matches are contested. Only that it could be.

Now it's up to Couples and his charges, leading 7-5 through two rounds of this ninth Presidents Cup, to see how close they can get to 15 points and put some distance between them and the determined home team, which managed to eke out a 3-3 split Friday in four-ball play on windswept Royal Melbourne. It takes 17 1/2 points to win the Presidents Cup, so the two sessions represent a huge opportunity for both sides.

"We know tomorrow is a big day for us and we know tomorrow the International side is going to come out gunning for us, try to get some momentum and gain ground heading into the singles," Phil Mickelson said. "It's a big day for us to play well."

Fortunately, for Team USA, all the pressure is on the Internationals, playing at home, trailing by two points and starved for its second win in this biennial tournament. First things first, though, and that's for Greg Norman and company to at least cut into the deficit.

Good news for Shark is that rain moved in as scheduled Friday night and a southwest wind will be back for very different -- and easier -- scoring conditions Saturday morning. Bad news is U.S. has 21 1/2 to 6 1/2 lead combined in last five sessions of foursomes play.

Here's how the morning shapes up in Oz:

Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson vs. Robert Allenby and Geoff Ogilvy

Melbourne boys, who won four-ball match together in '09, should have advantage when the winds shift out of southwest, the third straight day of different conditions. Maybe. But U.S. chaps on a roll and will rely again on Watson's 300-yard drives and roll.

Bill Haas and Matt Kuchar vs. Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa

International duo wanted one more crack at playing together after 0-2 start. Gluttons for punishment?

Hunter Mahan and David Toms vs. Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel

Mahan and Toms registered 6 and 5 foursomes win on Day 1. Goosen and Schwartzel were solid in Day 2 four-ball victory over same duo. Have to like the Yanks here given the format, even if momentum with South Africans.

Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson vs. Adam Scott and K.J. Choi

The handshake, part 2. Will it be more handwringing for Tiger, who suffered his worst match play defeat at the hands of Scott and Choi two days earlier? Tough spot for Woods, who is only American without a point and can only hit half the shots. Good news is that he can't do worse than what's already transpired.

Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk vs. Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day

No member of this foursome has lost yet, so should be a good battle. Likely winner? Hmmm. Combined age of US team: 80. Combined age of Aussies: 54. Does youth get served or served on a vegamite sandwich?

-- Dave Shedloski