Monday, August 13, 2018

Americans just one point away from winning Presidents Cup

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — 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.

From the sun rising over the Manhattan skyline until the chill of twilight at Liberty National, the Americans poured it on with such force they were one match away from clinching the cup a 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," International captain Nick Price said with a smile. "First time we had seen a match go our way for a long time."

That means it will be a short Sunday.

The Americans had a 141/2-31/2 lead and need one point from the 12 singles matches today.

Phil Mickelson set a Presidents Cup record with his 25th victory, breaking a tie with 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 and Patrick Reed improved to 8-1-3 as a partnership in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Justin Thomas made a big birdie on the 14th hole and cupped his hand to his ear to fire up the crowd.

Even in the lone loss of the day, the Americans made it difficult. 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. Today "we're going to go out and try to do the exact same thing."

PGA EUROPE: Rory McIlroy moved into contention at the British Masters by shooting 6-under 64 in the third round, leaving the No. 6-ranked golfer two strokes off the lead held by Robert Karlsson in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. Karlsson shot 67 for 12-under 198 overall and was one stroke clear of five players, including overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton, who bogeyed the last hole for 71.

LPGA: Belen Mozo will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the New Zealand Women's Open in Auckland after 1-under 71 helped her hold off challenges from Brooke Henderson and Seminole's Brittany Lincicome. Mozo, who led by five strokes after the second round, had a three-round total of 15-under 201. Henderson had 67 to move into second place. The biggest mover was Lincicome, who had 66 to be tied for third, four strokes behind. Lincicome had four birdies and eagle in conditions she described as "yucky."