Justin Thomas hits a tee shot from the 12th hole on day two of the Presidents Cup on Friday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. Photo by Rich Schultz/UPI | License Photo
The United States got a dominating match win from rookies Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell and rode the continued excellence of FedExCup champion Justin Thomas to another victory with his partner Rickie Fowler while opening up an 8-2 lead over the International team on Friday after Day 2 of the 12th Presidents Cup.
The biennial competition is being competed at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.
The Americans won four of the five four-ball (better ball) matches on Friday and halved the fifth, earning 4 1/2 of the possible five points on the day.
The surprise performance of the day came from Hoffman and Chappell, who blitzed their way to a 5-up lead at the turn and closed out the International duo of Anirban Lahiri of India and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa 6 and 5.
Hoffman and Chappell won the opening two holes, capturing the second with a conceded eagle after Hoffman hit his second shot to three feet, and the duo simply never let up. Lahiri and Schwartzel were actually fortunate to halve the third after Lahiri was disqualified from playing the hole after he broke a rule by practicing a bunker shot following the conclusion of the second hole.
Chappell birdied the fourth to move the team 3-up, and added two more on Nos. 8 and 9 to move the team 5-up. Hoffman then sealed the match with a birdie at 13.
Thomas hit the pin with a bunker shot on the 16th hole after holing another shot from the sand two holes earlier to garner his match with Fowler against South African's Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace. When Oosthuizen missed a short birdie putt on the 16th, Thomas and Fowler closed out a 3 and 2 victory.
Thomas and Fowler never trailed in the match. They won the third with a Fowler birdie from 16 feet to move 1-up. The pair won the fifth to move 2-up, lost the sixth and then won the eighth. The American pair was still 2-up on the 12th, and that's when Thomas caught fire.
The South African pair was previously 5-0 as a team in the Presidents Cup. This was not only their initial loss, but the first time they haven't gotten a full point.
The third match win of the day for the United States came via Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, who beat Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela and Adam Scott of Australia 3 and 2. Johnson birdied the 12th and 15th holes before closing out the International duo with another birdie on the 16th.
Match win No. 4 for Team USA came just moments later when Phil Mickelson, playing with Kevin Kisner, buried a 13-foot putt on the final hole to garner a 1 up victory over Australian's Marc Leishman and Jason Day. Kisner had drained a 21-foot birdie on the 15th hole that squared the match.
The American duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed had to settle for a halve with Canadian Adam Hadwin and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan after winning the 15th and 16th holes to square the match. Spieth surprisingly missed an 8-footer for birdie that would have won the 17th hole and lipped out another putt on the closing hole.
The Presidents Cup competition consists of 30 matches. Thursday began with five foursomes (alternate shot) matches, after which the United States Team held a 3 1/2-1 1/2 point lead over the International Team, made up of 12 professionals not from Europe.
Saturday's schedule will offer four foursomes matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon. Sunday's final day will consist of 12 singles matches, with every player from both teams on the course.
The Americans have won sixth straight Presidents Cups and nine of the 11 previously contests beginning in 1994. The International Team has won once and one match, in 2003 in South Africa, was a tie.
NOTES: Matt Kuchar and rookie Daniel Berger did not play for the American Team on Friday while Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina sat out for the International squad. ... The United States has led after the first day in nine of the 12 previous Presidents Cup, last trailing after Day One in 2005. Since 2007, the U.S. Team leads the International Team 41 1/2-16 1/2 in foursomes. ... There are 10 players making their debut in the Presidents Cup, which is tied for the second-most ever in the history of the event. There were 11 in 2013 and 10 in 2003, 2011, 2015 and this year. The six first-timers on the U.S. Team is also tied for the most ever (2011). ... Both Presidents Cup teams are the youngest in the event's history. The average age of the U.S. Team is 31.8 years old, while the International Team is 30.3 years old.