DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - The United States opened up a commanding five-point lead over the Internationals when the third day of the Presidents Cup ended on Saturday with four matches still to be completed following another day of foul weather.
Needing 17-1/2 points to retain the trophy, the Americans finished the day with 11-1/2 points to the International team’s 6-1/2.
The Internationals, in dire need of a resurgence before Sunday’s concluding singles, did make some inroads late on Saturday before play was suspended at a soaked Muirfield Village because of fading light.
Of the four foursomes matches still to be completed, the Internationals were leading in two, all square in one and trailling in the other.
However, Nick Price’s Internationals will need to build further momentum when play resumes at 7.35 am local (1135 GMT) on Sunday if they are to avoid a fifth successive defeat in the biennial team competition, and an eighth in 10 editions.
With Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods providing a few moments of magic, the Americans had tightened their grip on the trophy with a superb display of golf in the morning’s fourballs to lead by 10-1/2 points to 6-1/2.
Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner then beat the dusk to wrap up a 4&3 win over South African Richard Sterne and Australian Marc Leishman in the foursomes after Johnson spectacularly holed out from 115 yards to eagle the par-five 15th.
”We had some chances this morning and it went the U.S.’s way,“ said Price. ”It could have gone our way. But we are only halfway through this competition. We still have another 16 points left.
“That’s what I’ve been telling the guys, trying to get their spirits up. They are obviously down after what happened this morning. These guys have got a lot of push, a lot of determination.”
Price’s men certainly showed a lot of push on Saturday afternoon, at one point leading in all five foursomes encounters before the Americans began to claw their way back.
When play ended, Australian Jason Day and Canada’s Graham DeLaet were all square with Mickelson and Keegan Bradley after 13 holes while South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel were three up on Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker after 12.
In the bottom match, South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge, despite making just two birdies between them, were two up on unbeaten American duo Woods and Matt Kuchar after nine holes.
Along with Johnson and Dufner, Bill Haas and Steve Stricker also kept the U.S. flag flying and were three up on Australian Adam Scott and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama after nine holes.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden