Corey Conners PGA TOUR

Internationals close gap at Presidents Cup, trail Americans 11 7 after four sessions

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Taylor Pendrith of the International team blasts a sand shot but the ball failed to leae the bunker during the PGA President's Cup golf tournament on September 24, 2022, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Canada’s Taylor Pendrith thought he and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama were going to earn some points back for the international team when they were announced as partners for Saturday’s afternoon session at the Presidents Cup.

Unfortunately for them, they drew the duo of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, the most reliable pairing for the United States.

After Matsuyama birdied the first hole for an early lead in the four-ball match, the Americans had six birdies to earn a 4 and 3 win, the one international loss in the day’s second session. The United States held an 11-7 lead when play wrapped.

“They just kept making birdies. Hideki hit an unreal shot on No. 1, and we went 1 up,” said Pendrith just off the 15th green at Quail Hollow Club after shaking hands with Spieth and Thomas. “I don’t know how many birdies exactly they had, but it seemed like a lot.”

Shortly after that defeat, South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz earned a 3 and 2 win over Tony Finau and Kevin Kisner.

Then South Korea’s Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim birdied No. 18 for a 1 up win over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. Finally, Australia’s Adam Scott and Cam Davis held off Billy Horschel and Sam Burns for a 1 up victory as the internationals closed the gap on the host Americans.

Pendrith, from Richmond Hill, Ont., and Matsuyama were consistently driving further and with more accuracy than Spieth and Thomas, but the internationals struggled with their chipping and putting as the Americans excelled.

“I think the pins, some of the pins, were pretty tricky,” said Pendrith. “I didn’t really have many great looks at birdie.

“Hitting into 30 feet with putts that break eight to ten feet, it’s tough to make those.”

It was the second time on Saturday that Spieth and Thomas had beaten a Canadian. In the morning session, Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and Im also conceded to the Americans on the 15th green for a 4 and 3 loss.

Pendrith and Conners were paired together in Friday’s final match, a close 1 up loss to Horschel and Max Homa that was decided on the 18th hole. Conners was then in Saturday’s first match of the day, about 12 hours later.

“It was an early morning but I had a great sleep last night and I was raring to go again,” said Conners. “I was a little sore leaving the golf course after being close in that match so getting back this morning I was looking forward to playing again.

It’s the first time two Canadians have played at the prestigious Presidents Cup, which will move to Royal Montreal Golf Club for the next edition in 2024. Conners and Pendrith are the only players on the international team to not yet earn a point, with three of their four losses coming at the hands of Spieth and Thomas.

That led to Spieth and Thomas being asked why they hate Canada.

“That’s not a serious question, is it?” laughed Thomas.

“We love Canada,” said Spieth. “Remember in two years, that’s where we’re going to be.”

Added Thomas: “We love Canada.”

“We try to challenge whoever we’re going to play as best we could,” said Spieth, who has an impressive 8-2-0 record when paired with Thomas at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

“We have full trust and belief that we can beat whoever we play,” said Thomas. “Whether it’s a Presidents Cup or a Ryder Cup or a money game, we enjoy the challenge and try to embrace it.”

The first team to 15.5 points will win the biennial event that sees 12 Americans take on 12 players from around the world, excluding Europe. Sunday’s round will be singles matches, with Pendrith playing Finau and Conners taking on Schauffele.

In morning play Saturday, Scott and Matsuyama beat Cameron Young and Collin Morikawa 3 and 2 in the day’s second match. Lee and Tom Kim beat Scheffler and Burns 2 and 1. The U.S. answered back as Finau and Homa topped Si Woo Kim and Davis 4 and 3.