Charlotte, North Carolina: Korea’s Si Woo Kim, Sungjae Im and K.H. Lee brilliantly produced impressive wins in the Singles session at the Presidents Cup on Sunday as a battling International Team endured a tough 17.5 – 12.5 defeat to the United States Team.
Kim produced a stunning 1-up victory over World No. 7 Justin Thomas in the top match at Quail Hollow Club and his success was emulated by Im’s 1-up triumph over Cameron Young and Lee’s 3 and 1 domination of Billy Horschel.
Their heroics failed to prevent another American triumph in the Presidents Cup as Xander Schauffele delivered the winning point with a narrow 1-up victory over Corey Conners of Canada after the U.S. had entered the final day with a 4-point lead.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama tied Sam Burns in a close encounter after watching his chip for birdie on the last green hit the pin and stayed out, while 20-year-old Tom Kim, who was arguably the star for the Internationals following Saturday’s heroics with two wins, ran out of steam after leading 3-up through 11 holes and lost 1-up to Max Homa.
Si Woo, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, emerged as the highest points earner for the International Team with three points in what was his second Presidents Cup appearance. He trailed 2-down at the turn but hit four brilliant birdies coming home to down Thomas, who had won four earlier matches with partner Jordan Spieth.
“I've never been like this (much) pressure, even when I won the PLAYERS Championship (in 2017),” said Si Woo. “It's a really hard match. It's really special for me because I played J.T. in the WGC Match Play like three years ago, and I finished (lost) at the 13th hole, and I was a little emotional. But this time, I got my revenge. I kept the pressure on him. I love to play, like, team match. And Tom Kim gave me, like, good energy yesterday, and I believe I can do this. I did it.”
During a memorable week which delivered so many highlights, mainly from Tom Kim’s youthful exuberance and high-octane celebration which lifted the Internationals, Si Woo enjoyed his moment on the 15th green. Thomas had initially fired up the boisterous crowds after saving par from nine feet and after Si Woo matched him from inside of eight feet, the Korean produced a “shush” sign to the crowds by placing his finger on his lips, and letting out a big fist pump. “J.T. gives me the fist pump, and then I had to do it. I had to make it, and I made it. Then, like, yeah, I had to do something. I think that give me more energy,” said Si Woo.
Thomas, a two-time major winner, took the defeat in his chin. “Honestly, at the time, I was pretty pissed off. I mean, he hit the shots and made the putts better than I did the last six holes when he needed to. So I can say whatever I want about it, but he beat me. So he has the upper hand on me,” said the American star.
Lee, one of six captain’s picks, repaid Immelman’s faith by delivering two points in his International Team debut. Despite the crushing loss, he hopes to fight his way back into the next Presidents Cup which will be played at Royal Montreal in Canada in 2024.
“Super amazing. To win the match is so exciting. And then, like, everybody is pumping and cheering. Unbelievable week. I can't forget this week. So many unbelievable moments,” said the 30-year-old, two-time PGA TOUR winner.
Matsuyama was dejected after failing to secure what would have been a vital full point following a gripping encounter against Burns where he led 2-up at the turn. His lamented a cold putter, although it was a chip which nearly delivered an outright win on 18. “Looking back, I wish my putting went in a little more. My putting was horrific and I wasn’t able to add points. I’m pretty disappointed. I was really hoping to get a full point. I feel that I struggled to contribute to my team,” said the Japanese star, who was making his fifth straight appearance in the Presidents Cup.
Immelman praised his 12 men for fighting back from two heavy losses in the first two rounds and had entered the weekend down by 8-2. A stirring fightback in the last two days, led primarily by some stunning golf from rookie Tom Kim, saw the Internationals win 10.5 points to the U.S. 9.5 points over the weekend sessions.
“We showed a lot of guts to fight back. At some point this afternoon, I thought there was still a chance,” said Immelman. “And when you consider that we were 8-2 down on Friday evening, this team is no joke, and I'm sick and tired of it being spoken of as a joke. We love this event, and we love our team, and we cannot wait to run this back and have another shot.”
Australian veteran star Adam Scott, who lost in the fourth singles match 3 and 2 to Patrick Cantlay, believes many of the International team members, who comprised of eight rookies, would form the backbone of future teams.
“This team's got plenty of heart, and that's thanks to everything Trevor's put in the last couple years. He's bled for this shield (team logo launched in 2019) that we now talk about, and it's just the beginning for this team, really,” said Scott, who was making his 10th appearance in the competition.
“I think you're seeing a lot of guys here who will be returning on the next one. If they don't, they will have tried their ass off to get on this team. And the week when they put it together and they've got the heart, I think the U.S. team's really going to be up for a helluva fight. I'm extremely proud to be sitting up here with these warriors.”
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