US close in on Presidents Cup victory

 

Golf:A ruthless Tiger Woods and an inspired Steve Stricker tamed Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and South Korea's Yang Yong-eun 4 and 2 in fourballs yesterday as the United States tightened their grip on the Presidents Cup.

A long, gruelling day at a chilly and overcast Harding Park ended with the US and Internationals splitting the afternoon's five fourball matches but the home team will take a commanding 12½-9½ lead into today's singles.

Winners of five-of-seven Presidents Cups, the US need only five points from the 12 singles matches to clinch victory, leaving Greg Norman's men with a daunting uphill climb.

No team has come from behind on the final day to lift the Presidents Cup, and the US has never lost the trophy on home soil.

"We are in a good position being three points up but we need five points to win the Cup," said US team veteran Jim Furyk. "They need eight and we need five.

"We all like our position but we still realise that you have to play well tomorrow and you have to get the job done."

With Woods doing the heavy lifting in the morning foursomes, Stricker stepped forward in the fourball, dropping seven birdies as the pair roared into a six-up lead.

Woods and Stricker looked ready to complete a quick afternoon's work until the Asians dug in their heels, winning three straight holes from the 13th before finally conceding defeat on the 16th green.

With their victory, Woods and Stricker stretched their record to an unblemished 4-0, marking the first time the world number one has won four matches at a Presidents Cup.

"Today was a pleasure to watch Steve play," said Woods. "I was a cheerleader most of the day.

"Stricks put on a show. It was an exhibition how to putt.

Canadian Mike Weir and South African Ernie Els picked up the first point of the afternoon session, crushing Justin Leonard and Zach Johnson 5 and 3 to trim the US lead to 10-8.

The Internationals' fight back continued to pick up steam when Australian duo Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby saw off British Open champion Stewart Cink and US Open winner Lucas Glover 2 and 1 to further cut into the American advantage.

But the tide turned when Furyk and Anthony Kim scored a two-up decision over Argentine Angel Cabrera and Australian Adam Scott before Woods and Stricker's victory.

Phil Mickelson and Sean O'Hair never led against Fiji's Vijay Singh and South African Tim Clark but fought back from two down on the back nine to earn a half.

Earlier, Woods and Stricker produced a spectacular late comeback to beat Weir and Clark one up when an inspired Woods sank a 22-foot birdie putt on the 17th to square the match that triggered a roar from the crowd and a screaming double-fist pump from Woods.

Woods then put his three-iron approach within nine feet of the pin at the par-five 18th to leave Stricker, one of golf's top putters, an eagle chance.

"It was a good day, just because of the fact that we kind of got a little momentum," said Stricker.

"Tiger hitting those great shots down the stretch and flipping that match around...it was a big deal."