The U.S was in trouble. Big trouble. Late in Day 2 at the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia, there was not a single American flag on the board -- meaning the International side had either won or was leading each of the five matches. Then came the U.S. push that now makes this a competitive event.
Here's how it happened and where things stand:
Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott def. Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar 3 and 2.
The U.S. needed to change the momentum of this Presidents Cup on Day 2. And when Johnson and Kuchar birdied the first hole and took a 1-up lead, it seemed maybe, just maybe, the Americans had found their footing. Well, no. Scott and Oosthuizen turned a 2-down deficit through seven holes into a 3-up lead by the time they got to the 15th tee. Johnson -- who struggled on Day 1 -- and Kuchar -- who watched the opening session -- lost their way after winning the seventh and allowed the Internationals to stretch the lead a little more.
Down for much of the front nine, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen hit their straps at the turn and went on to give the Internationals the ideal start on Day 2.
Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer def. Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed 3 and 2.
Reed heard the noise from the fans. He even interacted once, holding a hand to his ear as if to say, "Bring it on," and then making a digging motion with his putter as if he was, you know, moving sand or something. That might have been the most entertaining part of the Reed/Simpson pairing. The golf wasn't. Leishman and Ancer fell behind after the first hole but evened things up on the third, took the lead on the fifth and never gave back the edge. That pattern -- slow-ish start followed by big surge -- has been how the International team has done things through two days. So much for Reed being motivated by all the drama and sticking it to the Internationals.
We were told Patrick Reed was going to thrive on some niggle from the pro-International crowd at Royal Melbourne. After two straight defeats, that looks not to be the case.
At a moment when even a tie would have felt like a loss for the Americans, Cantlay rolled in a 15-footer to give the U.S. a win it desperately needed. In a match in which neither side had a lead larger than 1 up, Cantlay and Schauffele -- who paired together in a loss on Day 1 -- won the 15th to even things and then needed Cantlay to come through at the last moment. Niemann putted first at the 18th, but his 25-footer for birdie missed on the low side. Cantlay rolled his in, celebrating before the ball even found the bottom of the hole.
Did someone call for an iceman? Patrick Cantlay was the first of two Americans to fill that brief during Friday's foursomes at Royal Melbourne.
Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas def. Byeong Hun An/Hideki Matsuyama 1 up
This was another turning point for the U.S. Moments after Cantlay knocked in a putt to win a match after watching the other side miss, Thomas did the same thing. Playing alongside Woods, Thomas drained a 17-footer. Almost immediately as the ball disappeared into the hole, Thomas and Woods both slammed their putters into the green at nearly the same moment. Thomas invoked Terrell Owens, screaming "I love me some me" after it went in. It was another putt the U.S team needed, and Captain Woods and Player Woods knew it.
Pressure? Justin Thomas doesn't feel it; or he certainly didn't on 18 today. A huge putt in front of captain and partner Tiger Woods, and a big point for Team USA.
Rickie Fowler/Gary Woodland tied Cameron Smith/Sungjae Im
No, Fowler and Woodland could not pull off the 18th-hole heroics like the two U.S. groups in front of them, but that the U.S. pair walked away with half a point was an accomplishment given it walked to the 16th tee down two with three to play. But back-to-back birdies evened the match heading into the 18th. Both Im and Woodland had birdie chances that could have won the match, but neither converted. So when Fowler rolled in a knee-knocking 5-foot par putt, it meant a half point for each side -- which felt like another win for the Americans.
Momentum shift? Maybe not entirely. But you get the feeling Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland's half-point felt more like a win in a session that just slipped away from the Internationals.