Justin Thomas and Cameron Young sank clutch putts and the United States blunted a back-nine fightback to lead the Internationals 4-1 after Thursday’s opening Presidents Cup matches.
The Americans dominated early then held on in foursomes (alternate shot) matches at Quail Hollow, stretching their Presidents Cup win streak in the format to 16 sessions since 2005.
Thomas sank a 27-foot par putt to win the crucial 15th hole to give him and Jordan Spieth a 2&1 triumph over Corey Conners and Im Sung-jae.
Young sank a 26-foot birdie putt to win the 17th as he and Collin Morikawa beat South Koreans Lee Kyoung-hoon and Kim Joo-hyung 2&1.
“We had some matches that we played really solid and some that were really a grind,” US captain Davis Love said. “A great start, a lot of heart.”
The Americans lead the all-time rivalry 11-1-1 and have never lost on home soil, having won the past eight consecutive Cups.
Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and 2021 PGA Tour playoffs winner Patrick Cantlay ripped Masters winners Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Adam Scott of Australia 6&5 in the opener.
But the other matches were tight to the finish, with South Korean Kim Si-woo and Australian Cameron Davis winning the last four holes in a 2-up victory over top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
“We hung in there. We got off to a tough start and were behind the 8-ball early,” said Internationals captain Trevor Immelman. “We’re going to have to find a way to make a few putts in the next few days. But we’ll hang in there. That’s what we do. We’ll never quit.”
Max Homa and Tony Finau won 1-up over Canada’s Taylor Pendrith and Chile’s Mito Pereira after Pendrith missed a 10-foot par putt at 18.
It took 99 minutes to crack par for the Internationals, who quickly fell behind in every match but grinded back.
“We’re going to learn a lot,” said Canada’s Conners. “I think we’re going to be just as hungry to get back out there.”
The Americans are huge favourites with 10 of the world’s 16 top-ranked players to none for an International roster decimated by defections to the LIV Golf Series.
World number four Schauffele and fifth-ranked Cantlay won the fifth through seventh holes with birdies for a 4-up lead and took the last three holes with pars.
“We felt like the wind was picking up so we told each other to ball-strike the heck out of this place and that’s what we did,” said Schauffele.
Schauffele and Cantlay rose to 5-0 in foursomes at Ryder and Presidents Cup. They also won this year’s PGA pairs event in New Orleans.
“We just feel really comfortable and confident playing together,” Cantlay said. “To make no bogeys it was really good golf.”
Spieth and Thomas stayed unbeaten in Cup foursomes. They went 3-up after six but Im’s 14-foot birdie putt to win the ninth trimmed it to 1-up.
“It was a big grind,” Spieth said.
Thomas sank his clutch putt at 15, Quail Hollow’s closing hole when he won the 2017 PGA Championship but moved this week to produce thrills.
Thomas did, pumping his fist and screaming, “That’s what I’m talking about,” before two final tied holes sealed victory.
“It was huge,” Thomas said. “It was great. It was exactly what we needed kind of thing.”
Young holed a 24-foot birdie putt to win the sixth but a Lee birdie at 12 tied the match. Morikawa’s approach landed inches from the cup at 13 to set up a birdie to restore the US lead ahead of Young’s winning putt.
“It was awesome,” Young said.
Reigning Masters champion Scheffler and Burns were 2-up after 14 but Kim Si-woo and Davis took the lead when Davis dropped his approach at 17 inside four feet and Kim sank the birdie putt, then won 18 when Scheffler missed a 12-footer for par. “We had a brutal first nine,” Kim said. “We played nervously but we tried to fight back.”
Davis said of his heroics at 17: “It was the first time all day a shot come off like I wanted and it came at a perfect time.”
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