Price looking for a miracle as United States take five-point lead
International side face uphill task in Presidents Cup
United States team captain Fred Couples laughs on the 18th green during the Saturday fourball matches at the Presidents Cup tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photograph: Chris Keane/Reuters
Drawing inspiration from last year’s amazing comeback by the Europeans at the Ryder Cup, Nick Price’s international side are hoping to produce their own Miracle at Muirfield and win the Presidents Cup.
The internationals know they will have to produce something special on Sunday’s final day of competition after finishing Saturday’s weather-interrupted third day of action trailling by 11-1/2 points to 6-1/2, with both teams needing 17-1/2 to win.
The odds are heavily stacked against them but with four of Saturday’s matches held over to Sunday morning before the concluding 12 singles matches, there are still 16 points up for grabs on the final day.
“It’s not over,” Price said. “We’ve still got a lot of golf to play tomorrow and I have the utmost confidence in these guys that they can turn those two games around. But we don‘t want to go into the singles with too much of a deficit.”
Despite trailing by five points, the good news for the internationals is they have a great chance of at least reducing the deficit before the singles. Of the four unfinished matches, they were leading in two, all square in one and down in the other.
“I think we are still in pretty good shape,” Price said. “If we can turn one of the games around tomorrow, there’s still a chance we could get 3-1/2 or four points, which would really make our lives a lot easier going into the singles.”
Although history heavily favours the team leading at the start of the singles, last year’s Ryder Cup – which became known as the Miracle at Medinah – provided irrefutable proof that anything can happen in the pressure-cooker world of team golf.
The Americans seemed to have the trophy in the bag after building a four-point lead before the last-day singles but the Europeans raised their games when it mattered to eventually win by a point.
For Price, there is an added dilemma he faces. Because of the backlog of matches caused by the inclement weather, he and US captain Fred Couples will have to decide the singles order before the four suspended matches will have been completed.
If his team was trailling by a large margin, Price would likely pick his best players to go out first in the hope they could at least get back in the competition.
But if the scores were close, he might want to save his best players for the later matches which could ultimately decide the Presidents Cup when the pressure is at its most suffocating.
“I’ve got to take a lot of things into account tomorrow and I’ll confer with my captains and some of the players, most of the players, and see how we go from there,” Price said.
“Invariably when you’re behind, you want to top-load your order on Sunday. I’m not saying I’m going to do that, but that’s normal. I’m going to have to play it by ear tomorrow.”
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.
Johnson’s magical shot capped a stunning comeback by the Americans, who were one down after eight holes but then surged ahead by winning the ninth, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th.
“In the morning, we played extremely well, and then Zach and Duf, to flip that match around, seems like it flipped a couple other matches our way,” said Couples.