Dec. 13 (UPI) -- The International team still led by three after the second round of the 2019 Presidents Cup, but the Americans picked up some late momentum Friday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne.
Captain Ernie Els' international squad earned its best start in tournament history in Thursday's first round, picking up a 4-1 advantage. The International team now leads 6.5-3.5 in the first-to-15.5 points tournament. The Americans rallied three times on the back nine and salvaged 2.5 points down the stretch to climb back into the tournament.
"This [U.S. team] is the best. Sometimes it bites you. But you put a spear in it and bite back," Els told reporters.
"It's perspective, isn't it? I've got to look at where we are. It's easy to just look at where we could have been, because it was looking really unbelievable. But we're in a very good position."
Justin Thomas had one of the best shots of the day for the Americans, sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole. The putt helped Thomas' partner Tiger Woods tie Phil Mickelson for the most matches won in Presidents Cup history, with 26.
"I know one thing -- if we don't make those putts, this is a pretty deep deficit," Thomas told reporters.
Day 2 foursomes play began with Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott beating Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3-and-2 in the first match. Kuchar started strong for the Americans, making two long putts on the first hole and fifth hole, for a 2-up advantage. The Americans did not win another hole after stepping off the green on No. 7.
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele beat International teammates Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann 1-up in the second match of the day. Cantlay's 14-foot birdie putt on No. 18 gave the Americans their first win of Friday's session.
The International team answered by winning the third match 3-and-2 behind strong play from Abraham Ancer and Marc Leishman. Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson suffered the loss for the Americans.
Woods and Thomas then stepped up in the fourth match, beating Byeong Hun An and Hideki Matsuyama 1-up. Thomas' heroics on No. 18 sparked the the narrow triumph.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland tied Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith on the fifth match, with each team winning five holes in the round. The International squad led the match through 16 holes, before the Americans won No. 16 and No. 17. The teams halved No. 18 to enter the clubhouse in a deadlock.
"Whether it's for a half-point, or if it's to win, that's why we play," Fowler said. "You know, that little adrenaline rush that you get when you do make those putts, they are confidence-boosters."
Woods will sit out for Day 3 of the Presidents Cup, missing the four-balls session for the Americans, as he concentrates on his captain's duties. Day 3 begins Saturday in Melbourne, but American viewers can watch Friday. The session includes four matches of four-balls play and four foursome matches, played Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon in Australia.
The matches air from 3 p.m. EST Friday to 2 a.m. EST Saturday on the Golf Channel or streaming on the Golf Channel Website.