Tiger Woods’ steel and Steve Stricker’s sensational work on the greens kept the pair perfect in four Presidents Cup matches on Saturday and lifted the US to a commanding three-point lead.
The Americans lead 12.5-9.5 and needed five points from yesterday’s 12 singles matches in order to win their sixth title in eight editions of the event that pits the US against a team from all corners of the globe except Europe.
In characteristic style, 14-time major champion Woods engineered a come-from-behind victory in their morning foursomes in the final two holes.
The world No. 1 then had little to do but applaud as Stricker made seven birdies en route to their afternoon four-ball triumph, the first time the same duo have won four matches in a single Presidents Cup.
Woods and Stricker were 1-down and facing their first defeat in three matches in the foursomes against Canadian Mike Weir and South African Tim Clark.
In the afternoon four-ball, Woods and Stricker built a 6-up lead through 12 holes over South Korea’s Yang Yong-Eun and Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
The Asian duo then won the next three holes with birdies to keep the match alive, before Woods and Stricker polished them off 4 and 2.
American Phil Mickelson remained unbeaten, if not quite perfect, in four matches with different partners.
After notching wins on the first two days with Anthony Kim and Justin Leonard, Mickelson teamed twice on Saturday with Sean O’Hair.
They cruised to a 5 and 3 victory over South African Retief Goosen and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas in foursomes and rallied to halve their four-ball contest with Fiji’s Vijay Singh and South African Tim Clark.
Both Mickelson and O’Hair missed birdie attempts at the final hole that would have given them a victory.
Mickelson and O’Hair had been 2-down through 11, then Mickelson birdied 12 and O’Hair 13.
At 14 Clark got it so close that his birdie was conceded, then Mickelson rolled in a 40-foot bomb.
Jim Furyk was a two-time winner on Saturday. He and Leonard wore down South African Ernie Els and Australian Adam Scott 4 and 2 in foursomes, then Furyk and Kim held off Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Scott for a 2-up four-ball win.
South Korea’s PGA Champion Yang and Japanese phenom Ishikawa delivered the Internationals’ only foursomes victory was a 3 and 2 triumph over Kenny Perry and Zach Johnson.
Hunter Mahan and British Open champion Stewart Cink denied the Internationals another victory when they won the last hole of their foursomes against Singh and Australian Robert Allenby to halve after trailing from the fifth hole.
Els and Weir regrouped to notch a 5 and 3 four-balls victory over Johnson and Leonard, and Allenby teamed with compatriot Geoff Ogilvy for a 2 and 1 victory over Cink and US Open champ Lucas Glover.
Even with those victories, the Internationals face a daunting task. No team has rallied from a three-point deficit on the final day to win the title, and America have never lost on home soil.
England’s Ross McGowan stormed into a seven-shot lead at the Madrid Masters after an incredible third round of 60 on Saturday.
The 27-year-old began the penultimate day one shot behind co-leaders Sergio Garcia and David Drysdale in joint-second place, but went into the clubhouse seven shots ahead after a round featuring two eagles, 10 birdies and two bogeys.
It smashed the record for the biggest winning margin on the circuit after 54 holes this year, which previously stood at four shots, and puts McGowan within touching distance of his first European Tour title.
McGowan hit his approach to the 18th around 20 feet past the flag before rolling in the putt for his second eagle of the day.
The world No. 177 finished at 24 under-par and is well-placed to break the Tour record for a 72-hole score, which is a 29-under-par from South Africa’s Ernie Els at the Johnnie Walker Classic six years ago.
The Essex-born player also broke the all-time Tour record for 54 holes by one shot, but preferred lies have been in place for all three rounds.
McGowan’s playing partner Garcia turned in a disappointing showing in front of his home fans at Centro Nacional, bogeying four of the last seven holes and falling 10 shots off the pace.
He was only one behind McGowan at the turn but dropped shots on 12, 14, 16 and 17 to sabotage his hopes of a first title this year in tatters.
Drysdale produced a three-under-par 69, allowing England’s Danny Willett and Michael Lorenzo-Vera of France to establish a share of second place.
Willett’s round of 66 took him up from sixth, while a 64 from Lorenzo-Vera allowed him to clamber up the leaderboard from 10th.
Japanese couple Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka had their honeymoon wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their resourcefulness in enforced exile in Cape Verde has won them appointments as ambassadors for its Olympic team. The Kataokas had completed a third of their round-the-world trip when a suspension in long-haul flights stranded them for five months in the archipelago of 10 tiny islands off the coast of West Africa. Unable to resume their journey to Europe and then home to Japan, and unwilling to head to the African mainland, where virus cases are spiking, they had to trade their skills with domestic businesses to
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