Another rain delay cut short some exceptional golf on Friday in the Presidents Cup.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley shot 30 on the front nine at Muirfield Village, an astounding performance in foursomes. Only some sloppy play allowed the match to go 15 holes in a 4-and-3 win over Jason Day and Graham DeLaet.
“We were down but, boy, on 5 we just turned it on and played some of our best golf,” Mickelson said.
Right behind them, Brendon de Jonge began to emerge as a star of the International team. He and Ernie Els never trailed in a 4-and-3 win over Hunter Mahan and Bill Hass, going 8 under when the match ended at the 15th.
“This guy, he played beautiful and we both played well today,” Els said.
The Americans had a 41/2-31/2 lead, though four matches were still in progress when darkness descended on Muirfield Village.
For the second straight day, storms interrupted play and left a bleak outlook for finishing Sunday. Rain led to a delay of nearly three hours.
The other four matches - the Americans were up in two, the International team led the other two - were to resume Saturday morning.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar were 6 under through eight holes and still only had a 1-up lead over Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Oosthuizen missed a short par putt on the ninth to lose another hole, and the former British Open champion made an even greater blunder on the par-3 12th. After Woods went long of the green, Oosthuizen’s 7-iron leaked to the right and hopped into the water. The Americans won with a bogey and were 3 up with six holes to play when they stopped.
Steve Stricker and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth finally seized control of their match when Spieth made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth and another key birdie on the 12th. They were 3 up with four holes remaining.
What looked to be the decisive match of the foursomes session was Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, who overcame an early deficit and were 1 up with five holes remaining against Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker.
The International team had control of the other match, with Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Scott 4 up with seven holes remaining against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.
Saturday is the busiest day for the Presidents Cup, with five fourballs matches early and five foursomes matches late. It concludes with 12 singles matches on Sunday, though the weather forecast is not any better, especially for Sunday.
One thing was becoming clear through the clouds - the course Jack Nicklaus built has been groomed for birdies.
The greens are among the purest on the US PGA Tour, and they are soft because of the rain. In match play, with 24 of the best players from every continent except Europe, Muirfield Village doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Mickelson and Bradley, coming off their first loss in four matches as a team, fell behind early and needed a pair of big putts from Bradley to keep from slipping further back. It took a 15-foot eagle putt by Mickelson just to square the match on the par-5 fifth.
But there was no stopping them from there. They followed with three straight birdies and won three straight holes on the back nine with pars.
Mickelson tried to hole out a pitch just short of the 13th green - an up-and-down was all he needed - and it hit the hole and spun 4 feet away. Bradley missed the par putt, bungled the 14th for another bogey and they halved the 15th with birdies.
Even so, they made six birdies and an eagle in 15 holes of alternate shot.
De Jonge and Els opened with two quick birdies through three holes and never gave Mahan and Haas much of a chance. They didn’t lose a single hole.
“Don’t let Ernie give me all the credit,” said de Jonge, who is playing in his first Presidents Cup. “He’s by far the most calming influence I’ve ever been on the golf course with. It’s nice to play with a Hall of Famer who hits it in the middle of the fairway and middle of the green.”