International stays close with late rally
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Mike Weir kept seeing American red on the scoreboard Friday, a familiar portrait at this Presidents Cup.
Tiger Woods and Steve were dominant in a different format, winning so handily that they were the last match to tee off and among the first to finish. Phil Mickelson had a different partner and got the same result, closing out his match before reaching the 17th tee.
For the second straight day, the Americans were poised to take a comfortable lead.
Thanks to a superb fairway metal from Weir, a clutch putt for eagle on the final hole by Tim Clark and another late rally by the International team, this Presidents Cup is far from over.
The Americans were ahead in five of six matches at some point on the back nine. The fourballs sessions wound up in a draw, the teams splitting the six matches. The American lead remained one point, 6 1/2-5 1/2.
``We watched the board a little bit and we knew all the of matches were within or two, except for a couple of them, so we knew if we could turn it around ... there's still a lot of golf to play,'' Weir said.
Weir and Ernie Els won the final three holes for a 2-up victory, the clinching shot by Weir from the base of the bleachers and onto the green at the par-5 18th for an eagle that was conceded.
``That was one of the better ones I've hit in a long time,'' Weir said.
Clark rolled in a 15-foot eagle as he and Singh won the last two holes for a 1-up victory over Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink.
``It certainly didn't look good there for a while,'' Clark said. ``When you come out of a day like that tied - and obviously, only one point back now - we are feeling good. It seems like most of the close matches that have come down to the last couple of holes, we've been able to salvage a halve or even win a point, which is huge.''
Of the five matches that have gone the distance, the International team has picked up 3 1/2 points.
The International team still doesn't have an answer for the Americans' best three players, though.
Woods and Stricker are the only players at Harding Park who have not trailed at any point over the last two days, and they have yet to play the 16th hole in competition.
Stricker chipped in for birdie on the first hole, hit a wedge to 2 feet to take the lead for good on the par-5 fifth, and Woods made sure Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera never got close on the back nine. Woods hit a towering approach to 5 feet on the 15th hole for a birdie that was conceded in a 5-and-3 victory.
``I'm very comfortable with him out there, and I think he's comfortable with me out there,'' Stricker said. ``So I think that's why we are having fun and playing well on top of that.''
Next up for Woods and Stricker: Weir and Clark, who volunteered to take a crack at America's latest juggernaut Saturday morning in the alternate-shot session.
``We know whoever is going up against them is going to have it tough,'' Clark said. ``We just feel like with our solid games tomorrow, we can go out and at least try and wear them down if we can. But that's going to be tough.''
Mickelson teamed with Anthony Kim in foursomes, and had Justin Leonard at his side in fourballs.
Leonard, who missed a 3-foot putt on the final hole Thursday event that cost the Americans a point, steadied himself quickly with a birdie on the first hole, and key birdie on the 14th for a 2-up lead, and an 8-foot birdie to close out the match, 3 and 2, over Retief Goosen and Adam Scott.
``We had a great partnership,'' Mickelson said. ``He came back after finishing last night not the way he wanted to, and on the very first hole making a critical putt, getting us off to a good start.''
Mickelson has done nothing but give credit to his partners, when he has carried the load. Lefty had six birdies in the fourballs format, and often had a birdie opportunity if Leonard happened to miss.
Woods and Stricker, who played only 14 holes in the opening session, might have had a shorter match until stalling on the back nine. The idea of fourballs is for both players to have a look at birdie. On several holes, it was either Stricker or Woods in play, yet they still managed to build a 3-up lead at the turn.
``You want two on each hole - two balls in the fairway and two balls on the green, always putting a lot of pressure on your opponent,'' Woods said. ``We didn't do that, it seemed like, on the front nine especially. It was one ball in, and that one ball was making birdies. So we did well.''
It was the first time Woods has won his opening two matches in his 12 years playing the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.
In the first all-Asian pairing since 1998 at Royal Melbourne, PGA champion Y.E. Yang and 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa built a 4-up lead through six holes and, after hitting bump around the turn, poured in on for a 4-and-3 victory over Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair.
``He's young, but he definitely doesn't play young,'' Yang said. ``I told him on the first tee that we should have fun, and we did have fun. And we had a win, as well.''
In the other match, Zach Johnson made sure the International team couldn't turn in one last rally. He holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to give him and Hunter Mahan a 2-and-1 victory over Robert Allenby and Camilo Villegas.
The Americans have never lost on home soil and have a 5-1-1 lead in the series. Saturday could prove pivotal if they want to continue those trends, with five foursomes matches in the morning and five fourballs matches in the afternoon.
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