Golf: US thwart Internationals Presidents Cup fightback

Kevin Chappell and Charlie Hoffman of the US Team celebrate on the 13th green.
Kevin Chappell and Charlie Hoffman of the US Team celebrate on the 13th green.PHOTO: AFP

JERSEY CITY, United States (AFP) - The United States grabbed two early victories at the Presidents Cup on Friday (Sept 29), dimming International team hopes of a fourball fightback.

Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman - two Presidents Cup rookies - thumped Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri 6 & 5 to seize the first point of the day for the United States.

Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas then delivered a stinging 3 & 2 victory over the International powerhouse duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.

The two South Africans had won four matches at the 2015 Cup, and provided the lone victory for captain Nick Price's International team on Thursday.

Price had hoped to see his players rebound after the opening day of action in the biennial match-play showdown saw the US leading 3.5 to 1.5 points.

For a time on Friday it looked like the Internationals could be turning things around at Liberty National Golf Club, where they led in three of the five fourball matches.

But with two matches complete, the Americans were up in one more on the course and had fought back to square another.

Only Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman were clinging to a 1-up lead over Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner with four holes to play.

The US dominance is no surprise.

Led by top-ranked Dustin Johnson and world number two Jordan Spieth, the United States have an average world ranking of 15 and have combined for 17 US PGA Tour titles this year - including the three most recent major championships.

The Internationals, drawn from eight nations on five continents, have an average rank of 32, with eight tournament titles among them this year.

But after a narrow one-point defeat in the 2015 edition in South Korea, there was optimism that the Internationals could pull off the upset, and add a second title to the one they captured in 1998. The US have won nine of the 11 prior editions, with one ending in a draw.

In all, 30 points will be up for grabs this week, with 15.5 needed to claim the Cup.