JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – The United States were left needing just one point to seal an epic Presidents Cup triumph on Saturday after Internationals Anirban Lahiri and Kim Si-Woo made sure the celebrations will have to wait.
Lahiri and Kim’s 1-up win over Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell was the only thing stopping the mighty Americans from becoming the first team to clinch the Cup before Sunday’s singles matches.
It was a small consolation for an International team battered into submission by the United States, who won six of eight matches on Saturday, halved another and lost just their second match of the week.
When the dust settled at Liberty National Golf Club, the United States led 14.5 to 3.5 points.
They need just one point from Sunday’s 12 singles matches to secure their 10th Presidents Cup crown.
For a moment, it looked like the Americans would get the afternoon fourball sweep they needed to close out the competition.
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed shook off a rules controversy to beat Internationals Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen 2&1, and Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger soon added a 3&2 win over world number three Hideki Matsuyama and Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas.
World number one Dustin Johnson and US Open champion Brooks Koepka never trailed in a 3&2 victory over Branden Grace and Marc Leishman.
But with the shadows lengthening, and both teams watching, Lahiri and Kim birdied the 15th and 16th to go from 1-down to 1-up and held on for the International win.
Spieth and Reed had triumphed despite Spieth’s hotly-debated disqualification from the 12th hole.
Day had birdied the hole and when Oosthuizen’s eagle attempt from off the green raced past the cup, Spieth used his putter to pick up the still rolling ball.
That put the British Open champion afoul of the golf rule prohibiting influencing the movement of a ball in play, and Spieth was denied a chance to attempt his own 12-foot birdie putt to halve.
Even US captain’s assistant Tiger Woods got in on the heated exchange with the rules official on the scene.
But the 12th went to Day and Oosthuizen, who maintained their 1-up lead through the 14th.
The Americans wouldn’t be denied, however, winning three straight holes to close out the victory.
Thomas and Berger also battled back for a win. Matsuyama and Vegas were 3-up through four, but wouldn’t win another hole.
The US team captained by Steve Stricker set the stage on Saturday morning, winning three foursomes and halving the fourth.
International captain Nick Price’s men had trailed by an unprecedented six points after the first two days.
On Sunday, they’ll try to prevent the United States from amassing the biggest winning margin in Presidents Cup history.
The US won in 2000 21.5 to 10.5 points – before the number of matches was trimmed to its current 30.