JERSEY CITY, United States: A record equaling win for Phil Mickelson helped the United States seize an unprecedented second-day lead against a floundering International team at the Presidents Cup on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
With an 8-2 lead over captain Nick Price’s Internationals, the Americans are more than halfway to the 15.5 points they need to win the biennial match play competition for a 10th time.
Mickelson, the only man to appear in all 12 Presidents Cups, rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to seal a 1-up victory with Kevin Kisner over Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman.
The United States won four and halved another of the day’s five fourball matches at Liberty National Golf Club, thwarting the Internationals’ bid to bounce back from a two-point opening day deficit.
“A really special day for us,” said US captain Steve Stricker.
The Americans’ six-point lead is the biggest ever held after two days of the competition, which sees 30 points up for grabs over four days.
The US had led by five points at the same stage in three prior editions, most recently in 2007.
With a 24th Presidents Cup match win, Mickelson tied the record held by Tiger Woods — who was watching at the 18th green in his role as an assistant captain.
Leishman and Day had led from the opening hole through the 14th before Kisner squared the match with a birdie at 15 — setting the stage for Mickelson’s heroics.
Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman—two Presidents Cup rookies—set the tone for the United States, thumping Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri 6 & 5 in the first match to finish.
Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas then delivered a stinging 3 & 2 victory over the International powerhouse duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
The two South Africans had won four matches at the 2015 Cup, and provided the lone victory for the Internationals on Thursday.
For a time on Friday it looked like the Internationals could be turning things around, leading early in three matches.
“They just have a lot of fight in them,” Stricker said. “They hit some great shots, made some key putts when they had to.. When that momentum gets on your side, you can feel it as a team, and I think that’s what you saw today.”
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed rallied to halve their match with Japanese world number three Hideki Matsuyama and Canadian Adam Hadwin.
A lot of golf left
Matsuyama and Hadwin were 2-up with four to play. Finally, however, they were lucky to escape with half a point after Spieth barely missed birdie putts at the last two holes.
And world number one Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka pulled away on the back nine to beat Aussie Adam Scott and Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas 3 & 2.
The US have won nine of the 11 prior editions, with one ending in a draw.
But after a narrow one-point defeat in the 2015 edition in South Korea, there was optimism that the Internationals could pull off the upset, and add a second title to the one they captured in 1998.
Price insisted it was still possible.
“We’re only 10 points through 30,” he said. “There’s 20 points left. There’s a lot of golf left.”