CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite a four-point lead, the U.S. Presidents Cup team came off the course slightly deflated on Saturday evening.
“Obviously we’re bummed with how the afternoon session finished and how it went,” Justin Thomas said.
But it didn’t take long to get ’em cracking up.
Maybe it was the long day. Maybe it was the lack of food. Maybe it was a state of delirium from three days of riding an emotional rollercoaster. Whatever the reason, Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele arrived at the media center in rare form.
Spieth came with a plate of food in his hand, so Thomas gave introductory remarks.
“I’ll speak on behalf of Jordan, my partner. He’s eating dinner at the moment,” he said.
Thomas made the point that in a format like this, it’s easy to forget where the overall match stands. Despite a 3-1 afternoon in favor of the Internationals, the U.S. team still holds a sizable lead, 11 points to 7.
Then Spieth put his plate down. “If anything, we’ve got to refocus, and we’ve got a lot of pissed-off guys that want to come out really strong tomorrow,” he said.
Schauffele chimed in.
“Yeah, I guess I’d be one of those pissed-off guys. Thanks for the tee-up, Jordan,” he said. He gave credit to Thomas and Spieth, who have partnered every session to lead the team with a 4-0 record. Schauffele and partner Patrick Cantlay, by contrast, lost two of the last three holes to lose their match 1 down. The dynamic meant that Spieth and Thomas were coming off a stretch of terrific play, a clear contrast to Schauffele’s deadpan sense of humor. He leaned in.
“Wasn’t very pleased with myself, personally,” he said dryly. Then he looked at the empty seat beside him. “I can probably speak for my partner as well, who is absent currently.”
What does Schauffele play like when he’s pissed off?
“I play like a toddler when I’m pissed off,” he said. “So I play my best when I’m focused and, you know, very present. So, you know, use tonight, get rid of it, sit in an ice bath until I can’t feel my body, and then I guarantee I won’t be pissed off anymore.”
Schauffele may not play well when he’s ticked off, but his sense of humor kicks up a notch.
“You know, I was dragging ass all day,” he said. “I’ll be the first one to say it. I’m assuming Pat [Cantlay] said it, since he’s pretty straightforward, at some point to his caddie. He never said it to me, obviously, because he’s a good partner. He was carrying me all day.”
Another reporter asked about Tom Kim, Schauffele’s 20-year-old opponent whose energetic celebrations have made him an instant star at this year’s Cup. That led to this exchange:
Reporter: “What effect do some of [Tom Kim’s] histrionics have when it’s inside the ropes and you guys are competing against him?”
Schauffele: “What’s the word you just used?”
Reporter: “Histrionics, like theatrics.”
Schauffele: “Oh. I know the second one. Xander here, not Patrick.”
He seemed to be in a better mood already.
Asked for their high moments of the day, all three delivered.
“I putted 10 times today,” Thomas said. “I played two matches and I hit 10 putts. I think that’s pretty absurd. I legitimately think I picked my coin up more than I hit putts. So yeah, my partner’s pretty good.”
Spieth’s moment came at his partner’s expense: “I think mine would have been the selfish chip-in at the last when Justin was five feet and was going to knock it in to win the match. That was kind of fun,” he said.
Schauffele, feeling uninspired, declined to answer.
“Yeah, I don’t — I’ll just save mine for tomorrow,” he said.
The final question came from ESPN’s Michael Collins.
“So, Justin, you’re the emotional heartbeat of the U.S. team,” he began.
Spieth jumped in. “Says who?”
Collins asked if Thomas wanted Tom Kim in Sunday singles.
“Yeah,” Thomas said. “I would love it.”
Spieth chimed in again. “I think we’d like to see Billy Horschel against Tom Kim,” he said, referring to his team’s most emotive personality. “That would be fun. I think Billy would like that, too.”
They seemed to be enjoying themselves. But they were also ready to go.
“You think the captains are watching this in our team room?” Schauffele asked. Thomas looked into the Golf Channel cameras.
“Captains, if you’re watching this, please let us come back. I’m hungry.”
Wish granted. That was the end of the presser.
They’ll hope to return as champions on Sunday.