The United States - and Jim Furyk - stand along in the 2007 Presidents Cup, taking a decisive lead into the last day. U.S. Team holds decisive lead in Presidents Cup heading into final round at Royal Montreal Golf Club

MONTREAL - International Captain Gary Player knows the two-word answer when asked about the precedent for a major comeback in professional match-play golf.

Remember Brookline.

It was in that tawny Boston suburb, at the venerable Country Club, that the U.S. team overcame a 10-6 deficit heading into the final day to beat the Europeans in the 1999 Ryder Cup Matches.

"We saw some strange things happen in Brookline," Player said.

He is clearly hoping for a similar miracle, transferred here to the Blue Course at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, where his International Team enters Sunday trailing the United States by seven points in the 2007 Presidents Cup.

The Americans lead 14.5-7.5 and need only three points Sunday to retain the Cup. The Internationals, on the other hand, need to win 10 of day's 12 singles matches.

"Now, we're in a very difficult position," Player said.

The Americans routed the Internationals during Saturday morning's foursomes, taking all five matches and looking like they intended to take the Presidents Cup then and there. The Internationals rallied in the afternoon's four-balls to stay alive - if only barely.

They claimed their first point of the day at 5:01 p.m., when Americans Lucas Glover and Charles Howell III ceded their match against Ernie Els and local favorite Mike Weir, having both missed birdie putts and Els standing over a very makable one.

But before that, it was all U.S.A.

"We needed to come out today and put a little pressure back on them," said Steve Stricker. "And we came out and made a little bit of a statement."

Few of the morning matches were close, and only one went a full 18, with the South African duo of Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini losing to Stricker and Hunter Mahan by two.

Some matches were truly embarrassing. Phil Mickelson and Woody Austin needed only two birdies to beat Retief Goosen and Stuart Appleby 5 and 4 (the International duo carded six bogeys through 14 holes). Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk bounced back from their Friday beating in four-balls by taking Adam Scott and Ernie Els 4 and 3.

Not that the Internationals didn't have their opportunities.

They lead early in three of the day's first five matches, and seemed to be carrying the momentum from their strong showing on Friday. Sabbatini and Immelman birdied two of their first three holes to go 2-up on Stricker and Mahan; Vijay Singh and local favorite Mike Weir were 1-up through four.

But things began to go the other way for the Internationals. Els watched a 10-footer for birdie on No. 5 lip out - it would have halved the hole and cut Woods' and Furyk's lead to one. Looking like they'd at least halve, Sabbatini and Immelman watched as Stricker buried a 30-footer on No. 13 for birdie to send the match 2-up in America's favor.

Putting was the story of the day. In the morning, the Internationals couldn't get much to drop (Adam Scott missing a four-footer on No. 7 being just one example), carding just seven birdies to the U.S. squad's 19.

But during the afternoon four-balls, it was the Americans who grew cold with the flat stick. The U.S. squad carded 20 bogeys (they'd had eight in the morning session) and their 30 birdies were countered by 33 birdies on the International side.

Only one afternoon match-up amounted to a cruise: David Toms and Woods manhandled Nick O'Hern and Geoff Ogilvy 5-3, the two Americans combining to shoot nine-under-par through 15.

"You get these big, huge momentum swings," said Woods. "We were up in all the matches and you feed off one another and you look on the board, it gives you energy, every time you see red, for us up on the board."

Other matches began to tilt in favor of the International Team. First, Weir and Els drew their point.

Singh and Appleby had gotten it to 3-up over Stricker and Mahan after both birdied No. 9. Stricker, as he's been all week, was tough: making birdie on Nos. 12 and No. 17 to force a final hole, which Singh clenched with a par to win the match 1-up.

Stewart Cink, who had sat out the morning foursomes, joined forces with Furyk to beat Angel Cabrera and K.J. Choi 1-up after both Cabrera and Choi missed birdie putts on No. 18.

Mickelson and Austin ended all square against Adam Scott and Retief Goosen after a seesaw match that saw late heroics as Mickelson and Austin birdied the last two holes to eek out a half point.

Presidents Cup results: Saturday foursomes

• Steve Stricker/Hunter Mahan (U.S.) def. Trevel Immelman/Rory Sabbatini (I) 2 up
• Phil Mickelson/Woody Austin (U.S.) def. Retief Goosen/Stuart Appleby (I) 5 and 4
• Tiger Woods/Jim Furyk (U.S.) def. Adam Scott/Ernie Els (I)
• Lucas Glover/Scott Verplank (U.S.) def. Vijay Singh/Mike Weir (I) 2 and 1
• David Toms/Zach Johnson (U.S.) def. Nick O'Hern/Geoff Ogilvy (I) 2 and 1

Presidents Cup results: Saturday four-balls

• Stewart Cink/Jim Furyk (U.S.) def. K.J. Choi/Angel Cabrera (I) 1 up
• Phil Mickelson/Woody Austin (U.S.) halved against Adam Scott/Retief Goosen (I)
• Mike Weir/Ernie Els (I) def. Charles Howell III/Lucas Glover (U.S.) 4 and 2
• Vijay Singh/Stuart Appleby (I) def. Steve Stricker/Hunter Mahan (U.S.) 1 up
• Tiger Woods/David Toms (U.S.) def. Nick O'Hern/Geoff Ogilvy (I) 5 and 3

September 30, 2007

Comments Leave a comment