Zach Johnson holed a 115-yard wedge shot at the 15th hole for a match-clinching eagle to cap a US comeback win at the Presidents Cup that dimmed hopes for an Internationals rally.
Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, and this year’s PGA Championship winner, Jason Dufner, were two down after seven holes on Saturday, before winning six of the last eight for an improbable 4 and 3 alternate-shot triumph over South African Richard Sterne and Australian Marc Leishman.
“From the eighth hole to the 15th, I watched every step with Zach and Duf,” US captain Fred Couples said. “I’ve not seen golf like that ever in alternate shot. They hit every shot at the flag. It was incredible golf.”
The reversal left the Americans ahead 11.5-6.5 with four darkness-halted foursomes matches and 12 singles matches scheduled for yesterday to be played at storm-saturated Muirfield Village.
The Americans needed to win only six of the 16 available points to win the trophy for the fifth time in a row and improve to 8-1-1 in the overall rivalry.
Johnson’s magical shot on the par-five hole came after a poor tee shot into the left rough and Dufner punched him out exactly the distance he wanted in the heart of the fairway.
“It was just a chip wedge that landed right next to the pin and dropped,” Johnson said. “I figured I have got to get right at it. There’s a lot of luck involved. Can’t deny that.”
Dufner could only marvel at the shot and celebrate with Johnson.
“The ball was covering the flag the whole way,” Dufner said. “Looked like it was going to be close. A little bit of luck that it goes easy. That’s my favorite walk up to the green — without a putter in my hand.”
Johnson and Dufner won after the Internationals had led in all five foursomes matches. After the victory fightback, darkness fell with the global stars only ahead in two matches, the US up in one and the other level.
“Zach and Duf, to flip that match around, seems like it flipped a couple other matches our way,” Couples said.
Johnson — who arrived a day late due to illness — and Dufner sat out of the earlier four-ball matches, adding to their desire to have an impact in alternate-shot.
“I was determined to get a point,” Dufner said. “We got off to a slow start, but we kind of fought our way back and took control of the match. For us to be down a couple holes and then suddenly come back and actually close out the match before darkness I think is pretty key. Hopefully, it will get some of the guys fired up.”
Johnson credited Dufner’s iron setups, the same ones that helped him overtake Jim Furyk in the final round two months ago at Oak Hill to win his first major title, with being critical to the pair’s success.
“Once Duf got his radar locked, that really put a pep in our step,” Johnson said.