- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 10, 2009

The remoras on the Shark’s roster provided Friday’s most ferocious bite at the Presidents Cup.

If the International squad manages to upset the heavily favored Americans this weekend, Greg Norman and Co. will have an unlikely rally from an unlikely quartet in the Friday four-balls to thank for rescuing the foreigners from a rout.

“I kept telling them to look forward and never look back,” Norman said after his charges surged late to split four-balls and enter Saturday trailing the United States 6 1/2-5 1/2. “I knew if they just kept plugging away, we’d get our mojo going.”

With one match already in the books for the U.S. team and five others well into the back nine of Friday’s better-ball competition, the leader boards at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco were bathed in red, white and blue.

Phil Mickelson once again led the U.S. team onto the course. And Lefty once again delivered, scorching the 7,137-yard, par-71 layout by carding six birdies on his own ball to partner Justin Leonard to a 3-and-2 thrashing of Retief Goosen and Adam Scott.

In the rear of the U.S. ranks, world No. 1 Tiger Woods and newfound wonder wingman Steve Stricker continued Thursday’s foursome success by beating Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera 5 and 3.

And in the four matches between, the U.S. team enjoyed three other late-stage leads with only Ryo Ishikawa and Y.E. Yang coming through for Norman’s swooning side.

A 5-1 rout in the four-balls seemed not only possible but likely. Such a result would have given U.S. captain Fred Couples and his troops a 8 1/2-3 1/2 lead heading into the weekend. In the brief history of the Presidents Cup, only one team has rallied to win after trailing following the first two sessions, and that was a 2005 U.S. bunch that trailed by just one point entering Saturday’s play on a home track - Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Gainesville, Va. - where it had never lost.

For Norman’s underdog squad, facing a five-point deficit and a stacked U.S. team would have made a comeback nearly impossible. But then a pair of International heroes emerged from the long shadows of their superstar American counterparts.

The first to take the stage was Mike Weir. The gritty Canadian lefty hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in more than two years. And his one and only major victory, the 2003 Masters, will always carry an asterisk; that’s what happens when you swipe a green jacket by winning a sudden-death playoff with a bogey over a never-was like Len Mattiace.

But playing alongside International staple Ernie Els, Weir came up with the goods Friday afternoon in a match against Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim. Undoubtedly exhausted after lugging around the wayward Kim, Furyk saw his side’s 1-up lead through 15 disappear with a Weir birdie at the 16th and an Els birdie bomb at the 17th, leaving the Internationals 1 up on the final tee box.

With his team in desperate need of a point, Weir fanned his drive on the par-5 18th well left of the tree line and into the pine straw against a chain-link fence. Undaunted, Weir lashed a 3-wood from 250 yards within 12 feet of the cup for eagle, prompting Norman to practically pull his wounded right wing out of its sling to deliver a high-five.

Just minutes later, South African Tim Clark trumped Weir’s finish. By far the shortest hitter among a foursome that featured playing partner Vijay Singh and recently minted American major winners Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover, Clark followed Singh’s match-squaring birdie at the 17th with an eagle at the 18th, lipping in an 18-footer as he fell to his knees.

It was neither Els nor Singh who gave the Internationals weekend hope. It was Clark, the only player in attendance other than the 18-year-old Ishikawa who has never won a PGA Tour event, much less a major.

Norman’s secondary soldiers have arrived at Harding Park. If his stars break out this weekend, the Internationals finally might break the U.S. stranglehold on the event.

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