Presidents Cup 2017: Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and the Americans take a 3.5-1.5 lead at Liberty National
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- When Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas reached the third tee on Thursday at Liberty National, they found themselves 1 down to Hideki Matsuyama and Charl Schwartzel. Their teammates, Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, quickly went 2 down right behind them against Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas. In other words, it was a dream start for International team captain Nick Price, who is hoping to become just the second winning International captain in Presidents Cup history.
The Fowler-Thomas duo immediately flipped the momentum at the par-4 third hole, where Fowler chipped in for birdie from 72 feet to get the match back to all square. That kickstarted what ended up being a 6&4 thumping that earned the Americans the first point of the 2017 Presidents Cup. At the end of play, the U.S. led, 3.5-1.5.
"That was definitely a big turn of events," Fowler said of his chip in.
"Yeah, it definitely got the round going a little bit and got the momentum going our way," Thomas added. "But we played some unbelievable golf after that, too."
Two matches behind them, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed were dominating their match against Si Woo Kim and Emiliano Grillo, two Presidents Cup rookies who never led on Thursday. Spieth and Reed lost just one hole, the par-4 third, before winning their match, 5&4, on the 14th hole. They are now 6-1-2 as a duo since they were first paired together at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland.
The second match, Johnson and Kuchar vs. Scott and Vegas, provided a bit more drama. Scott and Vegas took a 1-up lead to the back nine after making a birdie at the par-5 ninth. But Scott's tee shot at the par-3 10th found trouble, leading to a bogey and loss of hole. Johnson and Kuchar took their first lead with a birdie at the par-3 16th, and all they needed were halves at 17 and 18 to win 1 up.
This gave the U.S. a commanding 3-0 lead, meaning no matter what happened in the final two matches they would win their 27th straight Presidents Cup session. The Internationals were able to put together a late rally, taking 1.5 points from the final two matches.
Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen earned the crucial full point, beating Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, 3&1, on the 17th hole. The South Africans continue to mesh well, with a record of 5-0 together in Presidents Cups.
In the final match, Jason Day and Marc Leishman had a chance to cut the Americans lead to just one point. The Australian duo led Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner, 1 up through 16 holes, but a bogey at the par-4 17th brought the match back to all square. Each team made a bogey at the par-3 18th, giving the Americans a 3.5-1.5 lead at the conclusion of the first session.