US on brink of crushing Presidents Cup victory

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Rebecca BRYAN
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Jersey City (United States) (AFP) - The United States are one match win away from an epic Presidents Cup triumph, with only Internationals Anirban Lahiri and Kim Si-Woo preventing them from an unprecedented Saturday celebration.

Lahiri and Kim's 1-up win over Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell was the only thing stopping the mighty Americans from becoming the first team to clinch the Cup before Sunday's 12 singles matches even start.

It was a small consolation for an International team battered into submission by the United States, who won six of eight matches on Saturday, halved another and lost just their second match of the week.

When the dust settled at Liberty National Golf Club, the United States led 14.5 to 3.5 points.

They can secure their 10th Presidents Cup crown with just one point on Sunday.

US captain Steve Stricker said his message to his team was simple.

"It's not over yet," he said. "We have to go out and still take care of business."

But the Internationals will be hard-pressed to prevent the USA from notching the biggest win since the biennial match play competition was launched in 1994.

"I think all of us are going to go out there and try and play our best," Lahiri said. "We have to play for our pride."

"We've just come up against a juggernaut of an American team that has not put a foot wrong it seems like in three days," International captain Nick Price said. "They have had all the momentum and we've had nothing."

Phil Mickelson, the only man to play in all 12 Presidents Cups -- and a veteran of 23 US match play teams -- nabbed a record-setting 25th victory in the morning foursomes, teaming with Kevin Kisner in a 2 & 1 victory over Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo.

Jordan Spieth shook off a rules controversy to grab a third win this week with Patrick Reed -- a 2 & 1 fourball victory over Australian Jason Day and South African Louis Oosthuizen.

The International team's failure to fire -- they trailed by a record six points after the first two days -- had robbed the tournament of suspense.

The US push to clinch the Cup on Saturday lent drama to the afternoon, but Presidents Cup rookie Kim and captain's pick Lahiri came through.

Hoffman and Chappell were 1-up through 14, but Kim squared the match with a seven-foot birdie.

Lahiri followed with a 16-foot birdie putt to claim the 16th.

At 17, Hoffman chipped in from in front of the green before Lahiri poured in a 19-foot birdie putt to halve the hole.

After making their par at the last, the Americans conceded Lahiri's four-footer for par and the Internationals at last had another win on the board.

- Tough week -

"Obviously it's been a tough week for the team, so we were trying our hearts out," Lahiri said.

By then, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger had rallied for a 3 & 2 win over Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Vegas.

Matsuyama and Vegas were 3-up through four, but wouldn't win another hole.

World number one Dustin Johnson and US Open champion Brooks Koepka never trailed in their 3 & 2 fourball win over South African Branden Grace and Aussie Marc Leishman.

Spieth and Reed, fresh off a 4 & 3 foursomes win over Day and Leishman, triumphed again in the afternoon despite Spieth's hotly debated disqualification from the 12th hole.

Day had birdied the hole and when Oosthuizen's eagle attempt from off the green raced past the cup, Spieth used his putter to pick up the still rolling ball.

That was a rules infraction and Spieth was denied a chance to attempt his own 12-foot birdie putt to halve.

Day and Oosthuizen maintained their 1-up lead through the 14th, but the Americans won three straight holes to close out the victory.

"I don't think any of us have really focused much on the scoreboard until this afternoon, when we actually had a chance to finish it off," Spieth said. "For the most part we've been very focused on our own matches, trying to win and we're just playing better golf."