C.T. Pan was only 7 years old in Taiwan when the International team won the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne for its only victory in the event. So a video of the historic event was essential viewing ahead of matches against the Americans.
“I watched it a couple times, because I love it,” Pan said. “It’s been 21 long years … that video definitely pumped and excited everyone.“
Pan and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan are two of five Asian players on the International team, and they’re helping put the Internationals in position for their second win, again at Royal Melbourne.
On Saturday in the morning four-balls, Pan and Matsuyama combined for the second time to beat Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson 5 and 3.
“He’s a great teammate to have,“ Pan said. “He’s super solid. He hits pretty much every right shot and he made some crucial putts. He’s just someone I feel very comfortable to play with, and he helped me to play great golf.“
Two South Koreans — Byeong Hun An and Sungjae Im — are also contributing, with An combining with Adam Scott to halve their match with Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau on Saturday, while Im and Abraham Ancer beat Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay 3 and 2.
The fifth member of the Asian connection, Li Haatong of China, made his debut Saturday but he and Marc Leishman lost 3 and 2 to Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. Li is the first player from China in the Presidents Cup,
Pan and An are both 28, Matsuyama is 27, Li is 24 and Im is 21. Matsuyama has played in three previous Presidents Cups, while all the others are rookies.
“Obviously, with the language barrier, it’s tough to kind of help guys, but I do the best I can,“ said Matsuyama, the top-ranked of the Asian players at No. 20 in the world. “Guys like Adam (Scott) and Marc (Leishman) who have been around that are there to kind of set the tone.”
An was a late addition to the team when Jason Day pulled out with a back injury.
“We know how much we want this, and I think we’re in a great position,” An said after Friday’s victory. “(We) have to keep on the pedal and just keep making birdies and sticking to the game plan and win our matches.”
Pan said International captain Ernie Els’ game plan is moving with almost military precision.
“It’s great,” Pan said. “He had a system going in. We are his soldiers, so we follow his instruction. … and it works great. He’s done so many preparations the last few months. It’s working.”
Team USA captain Tiger Woods, who won his Thursday and Friday matches with partner Thomas, sat out both sessions Saturday.
“You have to do what’s best for the team, and I’m getting ready for the singles tomorrow,” Woods told ESPN.com.
Asked if assistant captains Steve Stricker, Fred Couples and Zach Johnson tried to talk him out of sitting, Woods added: “Well, I tried to talk myself out of it, too. But it is what is. We’re going to go out there and try and get some points today and be ready for tomorrow.”
Things took a turn for the ugly as the caddie for Patrick Reed says he shoved a fan after another loss at the Presidents Cup because the fan was too close to Reed and shouted an expletive at the embattled American player.
Kessler Karain, the brother-in-law of Reed, says he heard heckling for three days at Royal Melbourne and some had taken it too far and he’d had enough.
Reed was a singular target of the American team this year because of a rules violation last week in the Bahamas.
QBE Shootout: Harold Varner III and Ryan Palmer shot a 17-under 55 in the QBE Shootout to match the scramble record since the event moved to Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., in 2001. Varner and Palmer eagled the par-5 17th and had 15 birdies and two pars in the first round. They tied the scramble record set by Greg Norman and Steve Elkington in 2005 and matched by Jason Day and Cameron Tringale in 2014.
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