The Americans take a big lead at the Presidents Cup


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CHAROTTE, NC — On the final hole of Thursday’s final match at the Presidents Cup, Canada’s Taylor Pendrith had a chance to stem the tide of the American charge on day one, but he struggled to watch his 10-foot par putt miss the hole.

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“Honestly, I felt really good, I thought I was going to make it,” Pendrith said moments after the match. “We made a good read and I hit a good shot but it didn’t break.”

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An international bogey on the 18th hole cost Pendrith and Chilean partner Mita Perreira the match, handing Tony Finau and Max Homa the final point of the day, and giving Team USA a 4-1 lead at Quail Hollow in a four-day run to 15.5 points.

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If setting the tone early was part of the heavily favored Americans’ game plan, they certainly succeeded.

“It’s a long way to go,” said U.S. captain Davis Love III. “Obviously we’re very pleased.”

Hoping to get his underdogs off to a flying start during Thursday’s demanding alternate-shot format, International captain Trevor Immelman sent out Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, two Masters champions, in the first match. The Americans responded with Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

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It wasn’t even close.

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The Americans wasted no time defeating Scott and Matsuyama 6&5, and Schauffele and Cantlay stayed bogey-free and ended the match on the 13th hole. It was the first time since 2011 that a Presidents Cup match did not reach the 14th hole, and it was the start of a nightmare for the Internationals.

In Match 2, Immelman sent out Canada’s Corey Conners and South Korea’s Sungjae Im, who gambled on top pairings for his dominant roster. Love called on the familiar pair of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, and the Americans took care of business, taking the lead on the third hole and holding on for a 2&1 victory.

“They certainly didn’t cut us a hole and they were tough to beat today,” Conners said after the match. “We just didn’t get off to the best start, but we fought well.”

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Conners and Im — two of the absolute best forwards in the world — were both a little out on Thursday. By selecting the South Korean Im to compete on the odd holes, and with all four par threes on the even holes, the strategy was to put a lot of driver in Im’s hands and a lot of approach shots in the Conners. The problem was that I wasn’t having my usual driving day and Conners wasn’t having his usual day with the irons, so Im often left to putt and chip and a lot of pressure was put on Conners putter, which was at 136 .place. tour last season.

“We just couldn’t make the big shots go in at the end,” Conners said. “I think we will all learn a lot from that day. We’re all going to be pretty hungry to get back there.”

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In match 3, the American pair of Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young beat 20-year-old Tom Kim and KH Lee 2&1. The international duo of Si Woo Kim and Cam Davis rallied in the 4th match, taking their first lead of the day on the 17th hole, and beating world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns 2-up.

“It’s always more satisfying when you start off not having the best stuff and then find a way to turn it around, especially against the caliber of players that play here,” Aussie Davis said. “Really proud as a team.”

That left Pendrith and Perreira in the final match to determine which hole the Internationals would find themselves in on Friday. Trailing for most of the match, the Internationals evened things up with a birdie at the 13th, before Pendrith held the tie with a 24-foot birdie putt at the 16th.

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With the rest of the international team and the captains and assistants surrounding the 18th green, Pendrith’s putt to halve the match just missed, ending the day with four red winning numbers for the Americans on the scoreboard.

“Making that putt on 16 was really cool to keep us in it and give us some momentum and then unfortunately around 18, but that’s golf,” Pendrith said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before, so it was crazy. Tons of people, good support for the international team, and it was really cool.”

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It’s been a long day for Presidents Cup rookie Pendrith, who waited quite a while before launching one of his big moves since the first game of the final group on Thursday afternoon.

“I happened to wake up early this morning and I couldn’t go back to bed, so I was thinking about that first tee shot for a while,” he said. “The anticipation of teeing off in my first ever match had been building since 5am”

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The international plan for Pendrith and Perreira worked quite well with Pendrith taking advantage off the tee and Perreira showing off his shot, but in the end it wasn’t enough to hold off Finau and Homa.

“Mito and I played really well, we didn’t have the best stuff early, but we fought hard and put pressure on them in the middle of the round,” Pendrith said. “It felt like the last five, six holes could have gone either way. For my first match in the Presidents Cup, I had a good time. I’m hungry to win.”

Mike Weir sat down with fellow Canadians Pendrith and Conners on Wednesday night and tried his best to tell them what to expect. That wasn’t quite enough for Pendrith to calm his early nerves.

“I think if you’re not nervous there’s something wrong with you,” he said. “The first tee shot was quite the experience, but I went up and hit it right down the middle.”

Pendrith and Conners are paired on Friday, when two other Canadians will take on Americans Hom and Billy Horschel in the final match of the Best Ball format.

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