The United States appears to be running away with the Presidents Cup through the first two days of the competition.
After falling behind by 3.5-1.5 margin on the first day of competition, the International team hoped to cut into the lead at the Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, the United States refused play the role of good hosts and secured 4.5 of the 5 points available in Friday's four-ball matches.
The Americans have a whopping 8-2 lead going into Saturday's sessions. It will take nearly pristine golf from the International team to win the competition.
The U.S. teams may have registered a dominating day, but it didn't start out that way. The International team was leading several of the matches early on, but the U.S. responded with strong back nine performances to leave their opponents on their heels.
The final match of the day featured Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner competing against Jason Day and Marc Leishman. Mickelson and Kisner were trailing by two holes early on as the International team opened up with four straight birdies.
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Day and Leishman led by one hole going into the 15th, and that's where the Americans tied it up. It remained that way until the 18th, and Mickelson won it for the Americans with a dramatic birdie putt. The American team celebrated as Mickelson drained his putt and the crowd roared its approval.
"The score only matters at the end of the match," Mickelson said to NBC's Steve Sands after the match. "They started off with four straight birdies but we hung in there. To win it on the final hole is an incredible feeling."
This year's Presidents Cup is Mickelson's 23rd appearance representing the United States in international team competition. The victory was his 24th in the Presidents Cup, and that's one more than previous record holder Tiger Woods.
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Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas defeated Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace 3 and 2, while Kevin Chappell and Charlie Hoffman rolled to a 6 and 5 triumph over Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri. Dustin Johnson and and Brooks Koepka defeated Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Scott 3 and 2.
The only International production came from the team of Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin. Those two halved their match with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Saturday's schedule and predictions
The two sides will play something of a doubleheader Saturday, as the U.S. and the International team will conduct four foursome matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon.
The two captains, Nick Price on the International side and Steve Stricker on the U.S. side, announced their lineups for the foursome matches, which consists of team members hitting alternating shots. The four-ball lineups won't be announced until the morning matches are completed.
The morning matches will commence at 7:02 a.m. ET.
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Spieth and Reed will team up once again in the first foursome match against Day and Leishman, while Johnson and Matt Kuchar will meet Scott and Hadwin in the second match at 7:13 a.m.
Mickelson and Kisner will meet Vegas and Emiliano Grillo in the third match of the morning at 7:24 a.m., while Thomas and Fowler will meet Oosthuizen and Grace in the final match of the morning at 7:35 a.m.
Matsuyama, the highest-ranked international player, is not playing in the foursome competition. The Japanese has not been driving the ball well in recent matches, and Price is having his best player sit out.
Spieth and Reed have formed a key team for the United States in international competition, and they should find a way to get past Day and Leishman. While Day may have been the hottest player in the world two years ago, he has struggled with consistency this year.
Johnson and Kuchar should have a tough match against Scott and Hadwin. Scott has had great difficulty in Presidents Cup matches (19 career losses, per Justin Ray of the Golf Channel), and while Hadwin was strong in his match Friday, look for the U.S. team to win.
Vegas and Grillo are tough competitors, and they could represent an excellent opportunity for the International team to steal a match. Mickelson and Kisner won an emotional match Friday, and they may have a difficult time putting up another powerful effort.
Oosthuizen and Grace have been the strongest international team, but Oosthuizen lacked consistency Friday. Unless he regains his best form quickly, the powerful team of Thomas and Fowler should score a huge win.
Look for the United States to win three of the four morning matches.
The would give the home team an overpowering 11-3 lead going into the Saturday afternoon matches.