CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — Cameron Young didn’t flinch in his first Presidents Cup.
Neither did Max Homa.
They are part of the new blood of Team USA and they made the most of their opportunities in alternating play on Thursday, 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 fenced off Tom Kim and KH Lee 2 and 1.
Homa and Tony Finau won a close game par on the 18th hole after Mito Pereira snagged his drive in the trees. The 1-up win was the final point of the day for the Americans and gave them a boost of confidence ahead of Friday’s best-ball matches.
“Well, just to see the look on their face when they finished their games and got a point, they got off to a good start,” USA captain Davis Love III said. “They told me many times how much they wanted to play in this team. And then to come out right away and score a point, that was great.
Young said he usually isn’t nervous on the first tee, but he did on Thursday.
The 25-year-old calmed down after making birdie putts to win the sixth and ninth holes. These were set up by powerful approach shots from Morikawa, who was also playing in his first Presidents Cup game – although he shone in last year’s Ryder Cup.
“Having Collin as a partner definitely takes the pressure off me because I feel like, especially if I can just get him in the fairway, I’m going to have an 8 or 10 footer for a birdie,” Young said.
When Young stepped over his final putt on the No. 17, his main objective was to make sure he didn’t blow it past the hole.
“I kind of knew deep down that it was to win the game,” Young said. “But it wasn’t a putt that I think you could really try to make. Anything that distance here is hard to get close to. So I was really trying to hit a putt that matched the way I hit them all day.
“Once in a while these come in,” he added.
Young let out some emotion after the putt, waving his fist as the United States took a 3-0 lead.
“Winning my first was really cool,” Young said.
Homa also said he had a case of nerves initially, but settled in playing alongside the more experienced and easy-going Tony Finau.
“It’s different. A lot more people,” Homa said of the international competition. “Every time you have a partner, it changes the nerves a bit. But in a weird way, it almost takes it away because Tony is so good, I feel like I can kind of put it anywhere and he’ll figure it out.
Never was that truer 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 around 50 meters back in a deep rough.
But Finau’s recovery shot settled less than 10 feet from the hole and Homa sank the par putt to keep the game even. Together they headed to the next tee feeling like they had won the hole, although Taylor Pendrith and Pereira also pared.
“Tony told me on the 16th, it makes us feel alive – and that’s how I felt on that tee for sure,” Homa said. “It was a huge reversal. This tie looked like a victory.
On the international side, Cameron Davis was the only newcomer to the Presidents Cup to earn a point as he and Si Woo Kim won the last four holes for a two-way win over Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
There is no doubt that the defections from LIV Golf have had an impact on the Presidents Cup, especially on the international side.
Eleven of the 20 players who competed on Thursday were playing in their first Presidents Cup, although some like Scheffler and Morikawa have already built up impressive resumes. The international squad lacks stalwarts like Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen, who all went to the Saudi-funded LIV series and were ineligible to play.
Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were all members of the USA’s Ryder Cup-winning squad last year, but moved on to LIV. Johnson probably would have made the team, but Koepka and DeChambeau were way down the points list, in part due to injuries.
Either way, the great performances from Young and Homa are another indication of the solid state of American golf with the team’s 12 players among the top 25 in the world rankings.
“I’m proud of all of them, but especially these two guys,” Love said. “Scoring a point today was great.”
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