U.S. builds 4-1 lead

CHARLOTTE (AFP) — The United States needed three nail-biter triumphs to seize a 4-1 lead over the Internationals on Thursday at the Presidents Cup but the Americans were happy with the results.

The US squad, winners of the past eight editions of the team golf showdown, held off three of four late rallies by their global rivals in foursomes matches at Quail Hollow.

“We’re very pleased with the start,” US captain Davis Love said. “We’ve just got to stay on our plan and keep trying to just win every match and every session and let the outcome take care of itself.”

US rookie Cameron Young sank a 26-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole to give himself and Collin Morikawa a 2&1 triumph over South Koreans Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Joo-hyung.

“I was thrilled it went in,” Young said. “It wasn’t a putt that I feel like you could really try to make. Anything of that distance out here is tricky just to get close.”

“I definitely hit a little bit too hard. It is a really fast one… trying to make Collin’s life easy on the second one. And every once in a while, those go in.”

On a day of roller-coaster emotions, Young’s ended on a high note.

“That moment there is about all I can ask for,” Young said. “That’s a feeling I’ve been waiting to have for a long time.”

The other emotional putt by the US squad came from Justin Thomas, who saved par from 27 feet to win the 15th hole in a 2&1 victory for him and Jordan Spieth over Im Sung-jae and Corey Conners.

It was the only hole either side won on the back nine and what could have been a level match was instead a 2-up US lead.

“Was fortunate enough, just really tried to use that moment,” Thomas said. “Those switches are so big in match play.”

Max Homa, whose first PGA title came at Quail Hollow, and Tony Finau edged Taylor Pendrith and Mito Pereira 1-up when Pendrith missed a 10-foot par putt at 18.

“It means a lot,” Homa said. “We’re playing great, put in a lot of work. It’s cool to end the day 4-1.”

“This is what makes us feel alive. I felt very alive today.”

Finau made it clear the Americans, with an 11-1-1 edge in the all-time rivalry and 10 of the world’s 16 top-ranked players, aren’t at all overconfident.

“This thing is far from over,” he said. “It’s a great start, but you know how these things can go. We’re happy with this start, but not complacent. We’re ready to get back after it.”

The biggest US win came when Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay beat Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama 6&5 in the opening match — a statement triumph for the Americans over the most experienced Internationals duo.

“There’s a real advantage to trying to get (points) up on the board as early as possible,” Cantlay said. “It just gets everyone a little more comfortable and inspires them to just follow suit.”

Cantlay and Schauffele won this year’s PGA pairs event in New Orleans and improved to 5-0 in foursomes play in Ryder and Presidents Cups.

“We’re very motivated,” Schauffele said. “We enjoy playing together. We’ve done well in the format and we attribute it to our friendship and playing a lot and competing a lot against each other on normal weeks. There’s sort of a level of comfort we have when we compete together.”

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