INCHEON, South Korea: The International team lifted their mood with a stirring comeback on Friday at the Presidents Cup as home hero Bae Sang-Moon raised the roof with a final hole match-winning putt.
The Internationals won three, lost one and halved one of the five fourballs to reduce the deficit to the United States to just one point after being 4-1 down overnight at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.
And they did it on a day that had threatened to be overshadowed by a controversial incident on the seventh hole where Phil Mickelson was penalised for playing the wrong type of ball.
Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen had been the International team’s lone winning pair on Thursday and on Friday they led off with a thumping 4 and 3 win against world number one Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.
“We both played very poor rounds of golf and we didn’t have many chances. So it was Merry Christmas to the other guys,” said Spieth.
Three of the other four matches were decided on the 18th green of a pulsating day as the two teams battled blow for blow.
It was there to a cacophonous roar that Bae sank a snaking 12-foot birdie putt that enabled him and Korean-born Kiwi Danny Lee to beat Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker by the narrowest margin in match play — one up.
“I knew it was really, really big putt,” said Bae, who has won twice previously at the same course. “You know, a lot of people came out here and they were supporting us. It was really helpful.”
Fellow Lee, who was born in Incheon, had found it hard to cope with the massive expectation and paid tribute to his partner for carrying him.
Meanwhile another rookie, Thongchai Jaidee, put his poor display Thursday behind him as he teamed up with Charl Schwartzel to defeat Bill Haas and Chris Kirk 2 and 1.
Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes took the lone US win on day two with a two up victory over Marc Leishman and Steven Bowditch to continue their 100 percent record this year in the 11th Presidents Cup.
The International team have only won one of the previous 10 editions, in 1998, but with the score at 5.5-4.5 to the US with 20 points to play for in foursomes, fourballs and singles over the weekend, they now have a fighting chance to end their 17-year wait for a second.