The Presidents Cup continued Saturday at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia.
In the morning, it was an American romp winning four of the five foursomes (alternate shot) matches and the one they lost they only lost 1-down. That was Haas/Kuchar losing to Els/Ishikawa. Simpson/Watson won 3&2 over Allenby/Ogilvy, Mahan/Toms won 5&4 over Goosen/Schwartzel, Woods/Johnson 3&2 over Scott/Choi and Mickelson/Furyk 2&1 over Baddeley/Day.
That nudged their point total up from 7-5 to 11-6. If the Internationals just held that margin during the afternoon four-ball (best ball) matches (2½ to 2½), that would mean that they would face the impossible task of winning nine of the twelve singles matches on Sunday. Not going to happen.
So what do you do when your back is against the wall? What do you do when you’ve run out of any kind of possibility that you could somehow squirm out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself? You, uh, stop digging!
So in the afternoon four-balls, the Internationals got serious. They finally solved the problem of the American’s pulling guards, Watson/Simpson, who had been the first off each session and cutting a swath through the spirit of the Internationals with their steady, never-in-doubt victories. The Americans were never up in the match and lost 2&1. To their credit Johnny Miller said it was an upset and even though they were 4-down as late as the 13th, they forced the match all the way to the 17th to at least put a little damper on their enthusiasm. But the Internationals got their point and sent a signal to the boys behind them.
And at one point during the afternoon, after some early American stirrings that looked promising, the International’s were tied or leading every match. A little bit like, “I’m leading the marathon at the 20-mile mark!” to be sure, but it had to be at least momentarily encouraging to the team.
The second thing they did was serve up the Koreans, Kim/Yang, as fodder for the great Woods/Johnson ball crushers. But the Koreans didn’t get the memo. They actually played like they thought they could win the thing. The temerity. Let that be a lesson: temerity won 1-up. The giants fell. If Goosen/Schwartzel was an upset, this was a huge upset, a bright light for the boys behind them slogging along, keeping it close in a driving rain.
But Johnny Miller did have good things to say about Tiger Woods, very good things. “He’s playing terrifically. Tee to green as good as ever. He’s not hitting that flair to the right, he’s not missing it left like he was; both ways. And all of a sudden, that swing is starting to become his swing, not something he’s ‘trying to become’ his swing.”
And then Ogilvy/Choi took out Stricker/Kuchar 1-up. All day long Choi putted like an irrepressible maniac and confirmed his impressive victory at the Players Championship all the way back in May. Just plodding along with his heavy-legged, weight lifters gait. He probably couldn’t run 100 yards, but he looks like he could leg press 1,000 pounds.
But seconds later, Hunter Mahan answered Jason Day’s improbable birdie with an improbable one of his own to snuff the Aussie team of Baddeley/Day 2&1. This was an important momentum breaker because after the Internationals won the first three matches, the roar for Day’s putt and the certainty of its implications was deafening.
And then twenty minutes later, Adam Scott missed a makeable birdie putt on 17 to even the match with Furyk/Watney. And they were left to try to win the 18th to at least earn a halve. But Scott missed a much harder putt and the Americans prevailed 1-Up.
So after all that ardor, all that hard work, the Internationals won the four-ball matches 3-2, but that only closed the U.S. lead from 5 down to 4, 13-9. And they now have the opportunity to take some of the day’s positive momentum and figure out a way to win 8½ of Sunday’s 12 points to get to 17½. A big ask, but here are the singles pairings they’ll have to do it with:
Webb Simpson versus K.T. Kim
Dustin Johnson versus Charl Schwartzel
Bubba Watson versus Ryo Ishikawa
Bill Haas versus Geoff Ogilvy
Hunter Mahan versus Jason Day
Nick Watney versus K.J Choi
Phil Mickelson versus Adam Scott
Matt Kuchar versus Retief Goosen
Jim Furyk versus Ernie Els
David Toms versus Robert Allenby
Tiger Woods versus Aaron Baddeley
Steve Stricker versus Adam Scott
And finally, from a mastery point of view, there was something that became so tediously commonplace, I felt it deserved some space here. It’s the Ritual of the Missed Match Play Putt. It is preceded by an interminable effort to get the precise read on the putt. There is the stalking around the putt from all sides, the collaboration with the partner, the standing over the putt as if addressing it to see what the line looks like from there. The line established, the player returns to behind the ball and the beginning of his pre-shot routine. Once he’s addressing the ball there is a longer than normal fiddling over the ball (except for naturalist Aaron Baddeley)…and then the stroke.
When it misses, the Ritual begins. There is shock! There is a physical recoiling of the body, the incredulous look to the partner. The “Did-you-see-that?” gesturing. It went that way! And then the flourishing finish: dragging the ball back to its original position and trying the putt again as if to prove the lie of the way it went, how pure the stroke was and that it was surely bad luck that caused the miss.
It is a complete and utter waste of time. Get over it. In the game of golf you are going to miss putts. Do you really want to reinforce for yourself that you may be a bad putter? Instead of moving along to the next shot continuing to expect the best from yourself, do your really want to reinforce that you just missed another putt?
I’m just sayin’.
The broadcast begins on the Golf Channel at 6:30 PM (Eastern).