This Presidents Cup was looking like a runaway.
On Friday’s Day 2 at Royal Melbourne, the U.S. team — led by playing captain Tiger Woods — entered the day trailing 4-1. Ernie Els’ International team added quickly to their lead to make it 6-1 as the Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele duo walked down 18 tied with Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann.
Cantlay stood over a 14-foot birdie to win the match.
And he buried it and added an early fist pump before it even dropped — a motion that would have made fellow Southern Californian Kevin Na smile.
Huge putt by @Patrick_Cantlay.
The U.S. Team gets their first point on Day 2.
It's now 6-2 in favor of the International Team. pic.twitter.com/Tga7D3UdYY
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 13, 2019
“It was huge,” Cantlay’s caddie, Matt Minister, told the Caddie Network after the match, one in which neither team was ever more than 1 down. “It was the shot in the arm the team needed!”
NBC Sports/Golf Channel anchor Dan Hicks echoed some of Minister’s assessment in his live call.
“That could be just that little moment for the United States that they needed so desperately,” Hicks said. “That was a huge moment for the United States, scratching out a full point from the Internationals.”
The instant replays showcased Cantlay’s rare emotion then went to the shot of Schauffele next to Minister. As the putt dropped, Minister put his two hands up high for an emphatic clap.
“(I’m) thrilled for Patrick to come through on that stage,” Minister said. “It was also very cool to be there watching it and feeling the electricity. Very exciting.”
On Australia’s Channel 9 Wide World of Sports broadcast, veteran golf announcer John Swantek also called the finishing putt a key moment for the Americans.
“Patrick Cantlay does it, a most pivotal and needed point on the board,” Swantek said.
A half-hour later, Justin Thomas came through on 18 with a pulse-pounding birdie of his own to help he and Woods dramatically win their match over Hideki Matsuyama and Ben An.
Justin Thomas with a huge putt on 18 to win the match and give the U.S. their third point.pic.twitter.com/QtvQYDInUH
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) December 13, 2019
The late heroics helped the U.S. split the Day 2 session at 2.5-2.5, narrowly avoiding the Americans’ first foursomes (alternate shot) session defeat in 14 years.
Though Minister’s adrenaline was pumping as their match dramatically finished, he’s also aware not to get too high with any moments in the middle of the matches.
“It’s golf. You want your heartbeat as calm as it can be,” he said.
Judging on the way his player kept his cool and limited his reactions earlier in the round until the buzzer sounded, the two seem to be of similar mind.
With the Internationals now holding a 6.5-3.5 lead entering Day 3, Cantlay and Schauffele will be the second match out in the morning four-ball session Saturday against Abraham Ancer and Sunjae Im.
This matchup marks the first of this year’s Presidents Cup between four rookies.
What a chance for these young players to make their mark. The combined age of the International duo is 49 and the U.S. pair is 53.
They tee off at 7:16 a.m. (Sat) in Melbourne, 3:16 p.m. (Friday) ET.