On Sunday morning, the Internationals had hope. They had momentum, too. They stole two key matches late on Saturday, won their first session of the week and cut their deficit to four heading into the final day of the Presidents Cup.
The four-point U.S. lead was not insurmountable. In fact, two of the most well-known Ryder Cup comebacks in recent history came with the eventual winner trailing by four heading into Sunday singles. Both were so good they earned nicknames — the Miracle at Medinah in 2012 and the Battle of Brookline in 1999.
This one would have been nickname worthy, too, especially with everything that’s happened in the last year. It had all the ingredients: the International team losing four of its top players to LIV Golf, thus being ineligible for the Presidents Cup. Longshots on American soil. A team led by a likable captain, Trevor Immelman.
“This International team, obviously, we’ve seen it, but these guys are great golfers,” Collin Morikawa said. “These are some of the best golfers in the world. You can’t let up.”
But there was no storybook ending in Charlotte for these underdogs.
The Americans won or tied five of the first seven singles matches on Sunday at Quail Hollow Club to get to the 15.5 points necessary to win the Cup and claim their ninth consecutive victory in the biennial event. Five matches were still on the course when the U.S. sealed the win.
The U.S. eventually closed out the Internationals 17.5-12.5 and now leads the all-time series 12-1-1.
“You know, when you get to do it collectively with representing your country with some of the best players in the world, I think Max [Homa] said it really well, you just can’t put a price on it,” said Jordan Spieth. “There’s really nothing that’s more enjoyable.”
Cam Davis and Tom Kim both made key match-winning putts late on Saturday to make it an 11-7 U.S. lead heading into the crucial final day, but on Sunday the Americans took control of a handful of the early matches to stymie any International momentum.
Spieth, going off in the second match, but the first point on the board, beating Davis 4 and 3. It was Spieth’s first singles win in any Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, moving his record to 1-6-1, and it also capped an undefeated 5-0 week for the 29-year-old Texan.
Justin Thomas also had a chance to go a perfect 5-0 this week (he teamed with Spieth in all four previous sessions) and was 2 up at the turn in his leadoff match versus Si Woo Kim. But Kim took his first lead on the 16th hole — and got the fans, and Thomas’, attention when he shushed the crowd — but Thomas won the 17th hole to even things up. They both had 10-footers for birdie on the 18th, and Kim drained his first to guarantee a half point. Thomas missed to lose the match, giving the Internationals life.
Moments later, Patrick Cantlay finished off Adam Scott on the 16th hole to make it a 13-8 U.S. lead, which was crucial at the time. It followed Thomas’ loss, and at this point the Internationals led in five of nine matches and were tied in two others.
Then the Americans started chipping away.
Sam Burns and Hideki Maysuyama tied their match (which came after Matsuyama was dealt a terrible break on the 18th hole), and a Sebastian Munoz victory for the Internationals was quickly followed by one from Tony Finau, bringing the Americans’ lead to 14.5-9.5.
“Today’s about winning a point. That’s all it is,” Finau said. “We’re trying to win each session as a team. That was the message. My part today was to get a point, and I fought and made putts when I needed to.”
Xander Schauffele earned the clinching point, rolling a short par putt on the 18th hole to beat Corey Conners 1 up and make it 15.5-9.5 with five matches still in progress.
The matches continued, but the celebration was on.
As U.S. players sipped on beers and high-fived as they jumped in carts to go watch teammates finish, Max Homa and Morikawa both added singles wins before the day was over. There would be no upset on Sunday.
Presidents Cup singles results
Match 19 — Si Woo Kim def. Justin Thomas, 1 up
Match 20 — Jordan Spieth def. Cam Davis, 4 and 3
Match 21 — Sam Burns vs. Hideki Matsuyama, Tied
Match 22 — Patrick Cantlay def. Adam Scott, 3 and 2
Match 23 — Sebastian Munoz def. Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1
Match 24 — Tony Finau def. Taylor Pendrith, 3 and 1
Match 25 — Xander Schauffele def. Corey Conners, 1 up
Match 26 — Sungjae Im def. Cameron Young, 1 up
Match 27 — K.H. Lee def. Billy Horschel, 3 and 1
Match 28 — Max Homa def. Tom Kim, 1 up
Match 29 — Collin Morikawa def. Mito Pereira, 3 and 2
Match 30 — Christiaan Bezuidenhout def. Kevin Kisner, 2 and 1