By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The matches felt a little closer Friday in the Presidents Cup. And then Max Homa made two big putts that gave the Americans the same outcome.
In the third straight fourballs match that went the distance, Homa poured in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole for a 1-up lead. After Taylor Pendrith gave the International team hope with a birdie on the 18th hole, Homa matched him with another 12-foot birdie putt for the win.
That gave the Americans another session by a 4-1 margin, stretching their lead to 8-2 going into the weekend at Quail Hollow and making another U.S. victory in this one-sided affair start to look inevitable.
For the second straight time on home soil, the powerful American team goes into a double session on Saturday with a mathematical chance to win the cup.
“This is insane,” Homa said after he and Billy Horschel outlasted the Canadian duo of Pendrith and Corey Conners. “To come down to the 18th two days in a row, man, what a day. Billy made some amazing putts. I just wanted to help him.”
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were on hand at Quail Hollow Club, and while it looked for a moment as though the International team might make a game of it, the deficit at the end of the day was as daunting as ever.
The lone point for the International team came from two ties.
Scottie Scheffler had a 10-foot birdie putt for the win on the 18th, and only a few blades of grass kept it from dropping as he and Sam Burns halved the match with Sungjae Im and Sebastian Munoz.
Cameron Young had a 25-foot putt for the win that missed. He and Kevin Kisner settled for a half-point against Mito Pereira and Christiaan Bezuidenhout in the only match where the International team ever led.
The strength of the American team came from a pair of dynamic partnerships. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were 5-up at the turn and easily held on for a 3-and-2 win over Hideki Matsuyama and Tom Kim.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas improved to 6-2 as a team in Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup matches, leading from the fourth hole in a 2-and-1 victory over the Australian pair of Adam Scott and Cameron Davis.
As usual, Spieth and Thomas were far from dull.
They were 2 up with five holes to play when Thomas hit 6-iron to 2 feet on the par-3 14th over water to a back pin for birdie. And right when it looked as though the International side might get closer, Spieth was up to his tricks.
His approach on the 15th — the 18th hole when Quail Hollow hosts the Wells Fargo Championship — was headed for the stream when it hit the rocks and caromed over the green into the rough. He chipped 15 feet by, and then holed that par to halve the hole.
The Spieth-Thomas and Cantlay-Schauffele teams, formed as much by friendship as their games, are 2-0 this week and are tough to beat no matter whom the International team sends out against them.
The passion came from the Presidents Cup rookies.
Homa’s goal all year was to make the team and he was among six captain’s picks by Davis Love III. Homa won twice last season, and started the new season with an unlikely title defense at Silverado in the Fortinet Championship when he chipped in for birdie on the final hole and Danny Willett three-putted from 4 feet.
He flew across the country from California and looked energized, particularly at the end of the day with another point on the board for the Americans. It was the second straight day Homa was in the final match, meaning the entire U.S. team was there to see it.
“It’s surreal to have 10 of the best golfers I’ve ever seen in my life watching you and you’ve got to help them,” Homa said. “It’s a heavy weight. But it’s also really fun.”
It hasn’t been a lot of fun for Captain Trevor Immelman and his International team that was put together two weeks ago after more players — British Open champion Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann among them — defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf.
Saturday is pivotal at every Presidents Cup, and it could be the last chance for the International team to get back into the game with four matches of foursomes in the morning and four matches of fourballs in the afternoon.
The Americans would have to win seven of them and halve the other to clinch the cup, which sounds unlikely except for who they have and how they’re playing. They came within one match of doing that at Liberty National in 2017.
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