The rout is officially on.
Is there a 10-run rule in golf?
There should be based on what the Americans are doing to the International Team in the Presidents Cup, taking a commanding record 8-2 lead through two days at Liberty National after taking 4 ½ of the possible 5 points in Friday’s four-ball session.
The U.S. needs only 7 ½ more points out of the remaining 20 available in the next two days to clinch the Presidents Cup for the 10th time in the 12 played, with only one loss and a tie.
With four foursomes matches and four more four-ball matches on the schedule for Saturday, this thing possibly could be decided before the 12 singles matches are played Sunday.
Yes, it’s that good for the Americans and that bad for the International team.
The final U.S. dagger on Friday came off the flat stick of Phil Mickelson, who buried a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to vanquish Jason Day and Marc Leishman, 1-up, after trailing the entire match before a gutty comeback on the final four holes.
The Mickelson-Kevin Kisner match was the last remaining one on the course and the Internationals were hoping to get at least the full point from it. To get nothing out of it was gutting for them.
U.S. captain Steve Stricker called the day for his side “unbelievable,’’ adding, “Our guys stepped it up. They have a knack for doing that. To finish to finish like that, to have Phil knock that [last putt in] in is huge for us going into [Saturday].’’
And positively deflating for the International side, which has had the look of a team hanging on for dear life since the matches began Thursday.
“Tough day for us,’’ International captain Nick Price said. “I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out, but in all fairness to my guys, I don’t think they played as well as they were capable of.’’
There, however, is no sympathy from the Americans, who are playing like they want to crush the opposition.
“They’re hungry,’’ Stricker said. “They want to win. Our motto is, ‘Let’s win every session.’ If we so that the next two days we’ll be in great shape.’’
The fact is, U.S. doesn’t have to do that the next two days. The Americans can coast through Sunday and hoist the chalice toward the majestic Manhattan skyline.
The Americans set the tone for the day with their two players who sat out Thursday’s session — Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, who routed Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri, 6 and 5.
The next U.S. point came from 3 and 2 win by Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas. They put an effective stop to dominance of Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, who had been 6-0 as a team before this match.
Interestingly, the only half-point the International team got out of Friday came from the match expected to be the most lopsided in the U.S. favor. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, the U.S. version of Grace and Oosthuizen for the Internationals, halved their match with Hideki Matsuyama and Canadian Adam Hadwin.
Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, the two long-driving close friends beat Adam Scott and Jhonny Vegas in the anchor match, 3 and 2.
That left the Mickelson, Kisner, Day and Leishman as the last four players on the golf course for that final point of the session.
That final match surely left a lasting bad taste in the mouths of the Internationals, with Mickelson stuffing his tee shot on the par-3 18th to 12 feet and draining the birdie putt. That left Leishman having to make his 11-footer to halve the hole and match and he slid it just right of the cup.
“It just broke early,’’ Leishman said. “It was one I’d like to have again, but [I] gave it my best crack. We got beaten by two first-class players, so can’t be too disappointed with that.’’
Day and Leishman seized early control of the match with birdies on the first four holes to go 2-up, where it remained until a Kisner birdie on No. 11 cut it to 1-up and another on 15 got it to all-square. That set the stage for Mickelson’s moment.
“It sucks losing, but Phil hit a great shot in there and he hit a great putt,’’ Day said. “That puts a lot of pressure on Marc to hole his putt.’’
Now the pressure is far too great for the Internationals to come back from. The deficit is too large, and the U.S. roster too talented and deep, the momentum like a 20-foot wave down the coast on the Jersey Shore.
“We need to refocus and get back into contention on Sunday,’’ Day said.
He sounded like a guy whistling past a graveyard.
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