U.S. nearly clinches Presidents Cup victory before final day of golf

The Americans came within one match of winning the Presidents Cup. On Saturday. With 12 singles matches still to play on Sunday.

Anirban Lahiri made two clutch birdies that only delayed the inevitable. This is a powerful U.S. team playing to its full potential, and the result is the biggest blowout since these matches began in 1994.

Lahiri and Si Woo Kim had the only victory for the International team over two sessions. From the sun rising over the Manhattan until the chilly twilight at Liberty National, the American poured it on. They had a 14 1/2-3 1/2 lead and need only one point Sunday to win the cup for seventh straight time.

Phil Mickelson set a Presidents Cup record with his 25th victory, breaking the record set by Tiger Woods. Mickelson hit two wedges into birdie range in the morning foursomes session with Kevin Kisner, when the Americans won three matches and halved the other.

Jordan Spieth's best intentions cost him a hole in a ruling rarely seen in match play, though that didn't matter. All that did was inspire Spieth and Patrick Reed to win yet another match. They are 8-1-3 as a partnership in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.

Justin Thomas made another big birdie on the 14th hole and cupped his hand to his ear, covered by a beanie in the chill, to fire up a crowd that didn't need much help. Even in the lone loss of the day, the Americans made it hard on them. Charley Hoffman chipped in from short of the 17th green and body-slammed partner Kevin Chappell, a celebration that lasted only long enough for Lahiri to match his birdie with a 20-foot putt.

Lahiri and Kim were 1 up playing the par-three 18th, and when Lahiri chipped to 3 feet and both Americans were in the bunker, they chose not to concede Lahiri's putt until after Chappell had made par.

It was meaningless in the big picture, yet it illustrated clearly — along with all the celebrations — that no victory is too big for this U.S. team.

Hoffman was aware that his match could have ended it.

“We knew what was on our shoulders,” said Hoffman, the 40-year-old who had never been in a team competition as a pro. “I didn't have my best stuff all day long, but I had a chance. Got to give it up to Lahiri. He made some great birdies coming down the stretch, and they knocked us off.”

The 11-point margin is the largest going into the 12 singles matches, breaking the International record of nine points set in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, the only time it has ever won the Presidents Cup. The 2003 matches ended in a tie.

McIlroy in contention at British Masters

Rory McIlroy moved into contention at the British Masters by shooting a 6-under 64 in the third round, leaving the No. 6-ranked golfer two strokes off the lead held by Robert Karlsson on Saturday.

Karlsson shot 67 and was one stroke clear of five players, including overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton, who bogeyed the last for a 71.

Hatton was one of only three players in the top 24 to fail to break par on a day of low scoring at Close House in northern England.

McIlroy made the weekend only after a back-nine rally in the second round, and now has a good chance of winning for the first time in 2017, in what is his next-to-last event of the season.

Mozo retains lead in New Zealand

Spain's Belen Mozo has a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the LPGA Tour's New Zealand Women's Open after a one-under 71 helped her hold off challenges from Brooke Henderson of Canada and American Brittany Lincicome.

Mozo, who led by five strokes after the second round, had a three-round total of 15-under 201 on the newly established Windross Farm course.

Henderson had a 67 to move into second place. The biggest mover on the day was Lincicome, who had a 66 to be tied for third, four strokes behind. Also four back was China's Jing Yan, who shot 69. Local favorite Lydia Ko shot 70 and was seven strokes behind Mozo.

Byrd leads Web.com Tour Championship

Five-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Byrd shot a seven-under 64 in rainy, windy conditions to take the third-round lead in the Web.com Tour Championship.

Needing a high finish to regain his PGA Tour card, Byrd had a 20-under 193 total at Atlantic Beach Country Club for a two-stroke lead over Sam Saunders in the last of four Web.com Tour Finals events.

Byrd finished 55th on the Web.com Tour's regular-season money list and 170th in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings. He entered the week 66th in the race for 25 cards with $5,480. Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, had a 70, two days after shooting a 59 on his home course. He was 129th in the FedEx Cup and began the week 24th with $27,900.

Cameron Tringale was third at 17 under after a 65. He was 133rd in the FedEx Cup and 49th in the card race with $10,944.

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