Newcomers Young, Homa help US take Presidents Cup lead
Neither did Max Homa.
They are among the new blood on the United States team and they made the most of their opportunities on Thursday in alternate-shot play, earning points to help the Americans take a 4-1 lead over the International team at Quail Hollow.
Young buried a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole as he and Collin Morikawa closed out Tom Kim and K.H. Lee 2-and-1.
Homa and Tony Finau won a tight match by making par on the 18th hole after Mito Pereira hooked his drive into the trees. The 1-up win was the final point of the day for the Americans and gave them a confidence boost heading into Friday’s better-ball matches.
“Well, just to see the look on their face when they finished off their matches and got a point, got off to a great start,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “They’ve expressed to me over and over and over again how much they want to play on this team. And then to come right out and get a point was great.”
Young said he doesn’t typically get nervous on the first tee, but he did on Thursday.
The 25-year-old settled down after making birdie putts to win the sixth and ninth holes. Those were set up by strong approach shots from Morikawa, who was also playing his first Presidents Cup match — although he shined in last year’s Ryder Cup.
“Having Collin as a partner definitely takes some pressure off me because I feel like especially if I can just get it in the fairway, I’m going to have an 8- or 10-footer for birdie,” Young said.
When Young stepped over his final putt on No. 17, his primary goal was making sure he didn’t blow it past the hole.
“I kind of knew in the back of my mind that that was to win the match,” Young said. “But it wasn’t a putt that I feel like you could really try to make. Anything of that distance out here is tricky just to get close. So I really was just trying to hit a putt that was consistent with how I had hit them throughout the day.
“Every once in a while, those go in,” he added.
Young let out some emotion after the putt, pumping his fist as the U.S. took a 3-0 lead.
“To win my first one was really cool,” Young said.
Homa also said he had a case of nerves starting out, but he settled down playing alongside the more experienced and easygoing Tony Finau.
“It’s different. A lot more people,” Homa said of the international competition. “Any time you have a partner, it changes kind of the nerves a little bit. But in a weird way, it almost takes it off because Tony’s so good, I feel like I can kind of put it wherever and he’ll figure it out.”
That was never more true than on No 15 when Homa’s approach shot from a fairway bunker hit a rock — just missing the creek — along the left side of the green and ricocheted about 50 yards backward into some deep rough.
But Finau’s recovery shot settled within 10 feet of the hole and Homa sank the par putt to keep the match even. Together they walked to the next tee feeling like they’d won the hole, even though Taylor Pendrith and Pereira also made par.
“Tony told me on 16, it makes us feel alive — and that’s how I felt on that tee for sure,” Homa said. “That was a huge reversal. That tie felt like a win.”
On the International side, Cameron Davis was the only Presidents Cup newcomer to earn a point as he and Si Woo Kim won the final four holes for a come-from-behind 2-up victory over Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
There’s little doubt LIV Golf defections have impacted the Presidents Cup, particularly on the International side.
Eleven of the 20 players who competed Thursday were playing in their first Presidents Cup, although some like Scheffler and Morikawa have already built some impressive resumes. The International side is missing stalwarts like Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen, all of whom went to the Saudi-funded LIV series and weren’t eligible to play.
Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were all members of the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team last year but have moved on to LIV. Johnson likely would have made the team, but Koepka and DeChambeau were far down the points list, in part because of injuries.
Regardless, the big showings by Young and Homa are another indication of the strong state of American golf with all 12 players on the team among the top 25 in the world ranking.
“I’m proud of all of them, but especially those two guys,” Love said. “To get a point today was awesome.”
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