INCHEON, South Korea (AP) – Sang-moon Bae had a dynamic debut at home in the Presidents Cup by making a 12-foot birdie putt to win a crucial fourballs match Friday that helped his International team win its first session in two years and get back in the game.
Playing for the final time before he starts his mandatory military service in South Korea, Bae overcame some shaky putting with the one that mattered. Bae and Korean-born Danny Lee walked off with a 1-up victory over Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
The International team also picked up wins from Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace and from Thongchai Jaidee and Charl Schwartzel. The three wins and a half-point in another match cut the American lead to 5 1/2 to 4 1/2 going into a double session of eight matches on Saturday.
That halved match got most of the attention at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea when the International team effectively went from all square to 2 up in one hole.
It started when Phil Mickelson mistakenly broke the one-ball rule by substituting a different model ball on the par-5 seventh hole to help him reach the green in two. According to the rule, players must use the same model of golf ball for the entire match.
Mickelson realized his error in the fairway, and then the rules committee made a mistake of its own by telling him he was disqualified from the hole.
As the penalty is just a one-hole adjustment in the match, Mickelson should have been allowed to finish the hole. But he picked up his ball when told he was disqualified and Jason Day made birdie to win the hole.
With the one-hole adjustment penalty and Day's win, the International team went 2 up. That ultimately cost the Americans a victory.
Mickelson tried to rally by holing a bunker shot for the second time in two days – this one with a full pitching wedge from a fairway bunker on No. 12 – and holing key putts. Day and Adam Scott earned the halve, however, when Day made an 8-foot birdie on the 18th, and Zach Johnson got up-and-down from behind the green by making a 3-foot birdie putt.
The lone American victory came from J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson, the big-hitting duo that has not lost this week. The Americans never led by more than 1 up over 14 consecutive holes in a well-played match that ended when the Steven Bowditch and Marc Leishman of Australia could only make par on the 18th.
The South African tandem of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace might have provided the biggest spark. They took down Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson with three straight birdies around the turn, starting with a 72-foot putt by Oosthuizen.
The Americans went into the second day with a 4-1 lead and had a chance to make this Presidents Cup a blowout like so many others. Instead, the International team fought back and set up an important Saturday.
The Americans have lost only one time since this competition began in 1994, and they have won the last five times.
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