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International team rallies cut U.S. lead at Presidents Cup

Danny Lee checks the line of a putt for Sangmoon Bae, whose 12-footer on No. 18 cuts the Americans’ lead to 51/2-41/2.

Associated Press

Danny Lee checks the line of a putt for Sangmoon Bae, whose 12-footer on No. 18 cuts the Americans’ lead to 51/2-41/2.

INCHEON, South Korea — Sangmoon Bae never felt the pressure that weighed on him Friday at the Presidents Cup.

He made news in South Korea this year only during a failed bid to extend his waiver for mandatory military service. He wasn't sure what kind of reception he would receive at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. And as Bae stood over a 12-foot putt that was critical to the International team's rally, half his teammates were on the edge of the green and thousands of Koreans were watching in the gallery.

"I'm pretty sure he was nervous. I was nervous watching him," Danny Lee said. "So he had to stand up and man up, and hit that golf ball."

When the putt dropped, it was a defining moment for Bae and the International team in its bid to finally give the Americans a worthy fight.

Bae teamed with Lee for a 1-up fourballs win over Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, and the Internationals won their first team session in four years to pull within a point of the Americans. Next up is a double session today of eight matches that will shape the final round.

"That putt Sang-moon made on No. 18 (Friday) was probably the highlight of the last two days for us," International captain Nick Price said.

Price had other reasons to cheer.

Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace made three big putts around the turn and sailed to a 4-and-3 win over Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, while Charl Schwartzel and Thongchai had little trouble against an American team of Chris Kirk and Bill Haas that went 13 holes of nothing better than par.

The Americans, up 4-1 after the opening session, had their lead cut to 5½-4½.

"I think the U.S. team after (Thursday), they probably thought it was going to be a walkoff," Grace said. "We put our chests out and we went full heart."

The U.S. lead could have been slightly larger. A penalty that caused the match to go from all square to 2 up in one hole began when Phil Mickelson was not aware of the one-ball rule.

Players must stick with the same model of ball for the entire match in fourballs and singles. That didn't cross Mickelson's mind until after he switched to a firmer golf ball on the par-5 seventh to help him reach the green in two. Only when he saw U.S. captain Jay Haas did he ask him to make sure it was okay.

It wasn't.

"It's my responsibility to know that," Mickelson said. "I should have at least asked about it before I teed off."

The ruling overshadowed Mickelson's rally — a birdie on the 11th, holing a 142-yard bunker shot for eagle on the 12th — to get his team back in the match. And in the end, Mickelson didn't seem too bothered.

"I feel like we spotted the International's best team two holes, and they still couldn't beat us," he said. "Just saying."

CHAMPIONS: Bernhard Langer shot 7-under 65 in windy conditions to take a two-stroke lead in the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. The German, 58, had seven birdies in a bogey-free round at Prestonwood Country Club. Gene Sauers, John Riegger and Scott Dunlap shot 67.

LPGA: South Korea's Ha Na Jang used a late three-hole birdie run to take a one-stroke lead in the LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. Jang, 23, shot bogey-free 6-under 65 to reach 10-under 132 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. China's Xi Yu Lin was second after 68, and Alison Lee, tied with Lin after the first round, shot 69.

International team rallies cut U.S. lead at Presidents Cup 10/09/15 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2015 9:57pm]
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