A superb shot from Phil Mickelson. A South African that was painful to teach. That was all it took Sunday morning for the Americans to put themselves on the verge of another romp in the Presidents Cup.
Mickelson hit 7-iron around a tree and onto the 18th green that gave the Americans a shot at birdie that Keegan Bradley made for a half-point in a foursomes match the U.S. team once trailed by three holes. Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, a lone bright spot for the Internationals, blew a 3-up lead with six holes to play with three bogeys and a double bogey.
The Americans, who trailed in every match at one point early in the session, wound up taking the rain-delayed foursomes 3-1-1. That pushed their lead to 14-8 over the International team going into 12 singles matches.
"They have still got a lot of fight in them," International captain Nick Price said. "But this is a pretty tall order. And I just hope the golfing gods are on our side this afternoon."
The Americans needed only 3 points to win the cup outright for the eighth time in 10 tries.
And if this event wasn’t already a mess with all the rain delays, captains Fred Couples and Price didn’t do the audience at Muirfield Village or watching on television any favors with the singles line-up. The captains match players one at a time, which over the years has led to star pairings.
This year, Tiger Woods faces Richard Sterne.
The Americans not only have won the last four times outright, the most recent three Presidents Cups have not been close. This one has been no exception. The Internationals failed to win any of the team sessions, and this is the fourth straight time they have faced at least a three-point deficit.
"This isn’t over," Couples said, and he was right. The fear was that rain in the forecast might lead to a Monday finish.
Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge held on for a 1-up win over Woods and Matt Kuchar, giving the American tandem their first loss of the week. But even that was closer than it needed to be. The Internationals were 3 up with five to play, and it came down to Els having to make a tricky 4-foot par putt to secure the win.
The drama came from the once match that was halved.
Mickelson and Bradley were all square with Graham DeLaet and Jason Day when they returned to the 14th green. It was darker Sunday morning than when play was stopped Saturday night, but Bradley holed a tough putt to go 1-up. After Mickelson hit a chip with beautiful pace to secure birdie on the 15th, DeLaet knocked in a 20-foot birdie to keep from falling further behind.
Bradley hit into the water on the 16th, and the match was tied again.
It came down to the 18th. Mickelson had a tree blocking his line to the green. From 190 yards, he switched from a 6-iron to a 7-iron, shut the face and hit a hard hook that settled 10 feet below the cup. Day’s approach should have rolled down the slope in front of the green except for the soft conditions. DeLaet then holed the chip, struck so beautifully that it rolled into the cup like a putt, and he pointed to a Canadian flag in the gallery during his raucous celebration.
Bradley stepped up and made the putt for matching birdies and a fitting end to a tight match.