The Internationals edged closer to a breakthrough win over the United States at the Presidents Cup on Saturday after continuing their dominance in the four balls to extend their lead to a commanding 9-5 at Royal Melbourne.
Tiger Woods’s team will have to dig themselves out of a huge hole in the afternoon foursomes, with the US captain having elected to rest himself for a second successive session.
Ernie Els’s Internationals need just 6.5 more points to win the Cup for the first time since 1998, when it was played at the same venue.
Woods, wrapped up in a blue windbreaker while watching from the sidelines, saw two of his pairs beaten and one held in the four morning matches after the competition resumed with the Internationals leading 6.5-3.5.
Justin Thomas and Ricke Fowler withstood the International onslaught on a breezy, overcast day at the sandbelt course, as they beat an out-of-sorts Marc Leishman and Chinese debutant Li Haotong 3&2 in the first match.
Tony Finau, teamed with Matt Kuchar, rolled in a seven-foot putt on the 18th to snatch a half-point in the final match against Adam Scott and An Byeong-hun in a vital boost before the day’s second session.
Internationals captain Els, however, will be delighted with the home team’s position and particularly the contributions of his East Asian aces.
Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan reprised their successful day one collaboration to down Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson for a second time in the fourballs.
They had edged the Americans 1-up in a tense duel on Thursday but returned to thrash them 5&3, with U.S. captain’s pick Reed unable to conjure a single birdie.
Paired three times by U.S. skipper Woods, Reed and Simpson have yet to score a point.
Abraham Ancer’s stellar Presidents Cup debut continued as he notched his third point for the event, teaming up with Im Sung-jae to beat Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele 3&2.
The first Mexican to feature in the event, Ancer has been a revelation on Royal Melbourne’s greens and rolled in some sublime putts in his four-birdie round with Im.
None were better than his 26-foot effort from off the green, which slowly curled into the hole to seal the win.