The Americans have plenty in Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who moved them closer to another victory in the Presidents Cup on Saturday.
The international team has a spark plug in 20-year-old Tom Kim, who delivered the emotion and big putts that made it clear that the Americans will have to work for it.
The day started with the Americans having a mathematical chance of winning the cup. They ended up holding an 11-7 lead with 12 singles matches remaining on Sunday.
Spieth and Thomas became only the second American partnership to win all four team matches in the Presidents Cup, handily winning their foursomes match in the morning and their fourballs match in the afternoon.
The Internationals split the morning games and the way this Presidents Cup has gone for them, losing ground didn’t feel like a victory.
And then it got better.
Tom Kim of South Korea watches his putt go toward the hole at the Presidents Cup
The putt landed in the cup and Kim won her match over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele
They rallied over the final hour in two games to turn deficits into 1-up victories, taking the afternoon session by winning three of the four games.
The star was Kim, the youngest player at Quail Hollow and perhaps the biggest personality. He started the comeback with a 55-foot eagle putt on the par-4 11th hole against Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
They were all square until the end, Si Woo Kim was already out of the hole and Tom Kim faced a 10-foot birdie putt for the win. He took a few steps back as the ball approached the hole, dropped his putter and slammed his cap to the ground in a wild celebration.
“I wanted that putt more than anything in the world,” Kim said.
Cam Davis (L) and Adam Scott (H) won their match to give the Internationals another point
Moments later, Adam Scott and Cameron Davis rallied from 1 down with three holes to go as Davis made a 12-foot eagle putt on the 16th and a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to go 1 up.
On the final hole, Sam Burns hit his approach to 4 feet, giving him and Billy Horschel a chance to earn a half. And then Davis made a 10-foot birdie for another point.
Every point is big for the international team, which is already depleted from four players who left the PGA Tour for Saudi-funded LIV and already has eight consecutive cup losses.
The Americans are still very much in control, needing just four wins and a half from the 12 singles matches in the last session.
Spieth and Thomas have led the way. The only other American tandem in a Presidents Cup to go 4-0 was Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker at Harding Park in 2009. The Internationals had Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace do the same in South Korea in 2015.
Thomas and Spieth have been close friends for 15 years, dating for junior golf and international excursions. It is the first time in a Presidents Cup that they have been paired together and both are at their matches. It’s a deadly combination.
Still, the end of the matches gave Spieth pause.
“We’ve got to get the job done tomorrow and get two more points for our team,” Spieth said. “I’d love to win a single and I know Justin would too. We’re going to be close enough where our two would obviously be extremely important.”
Justin Thomas (L) and Jordan Spieth (R) are 4-0 in their matches entering the final day
Kim won both of his matches Saturday, teaming with KH Lee in the morning four to beat Burns and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1.
Playing in his 10th team – eight losses and one draw – Scott was shut out until he and Hideki Matsuyama took down Collin Morikawa and Cameron Young in the morning and Scott and Davis proved a big Australian duo in the afternoon.
“Any win against the American team is going to be hard fought,” Scott said. “So this feels good.”
Max Homa is still having the week of his life. After his late heroics the night before, he partnered with Tony Finau in a 4-and-3 win over Si Woo Kim and Davis. Homa sat out the afternoon session. He is 3-0 in his debut playing in a cup.
Schauffele and Cantlay lost for the first time in three games this week. They were 2 up after 10 holes and were 3 under the rest of the way, with Schauffele making a 40-foot birdie putt from short to the 15th green for a 1-up lead that looked to carry them to another point.
Instead, Si Woo Kim made a 4-foot birdie putt to square the match on the 16th and a 5-foot par putt to tie it on the 17th. Tom Kim was so nervous that he covered his eyes and peaked through fingers and fist pumped as the putt fell.
And then the 20-year-old Korean had the stage to himself at the end and he delivered a winner. What remains to be seen is what a putt – a point – can do for an international team that still has a four-point deficit to overcome.
Kim’s putt gave the international team life and cut their deficit to just 8.5 points