With tempers fraying before a USA comeback, Presidents Cup debutante Cameron Smith has expressed bewilderment at why he had been shouldered by controversial US golfer Patrick Reed.
Smith and Reed’s bad blood bubbled over on the opening day after the Texan walked off the fifth green and targeted the Australian, clashing shoulders.
Smith, who was watching after being left out of day one’s play, said he wasn’t sure why.
“Yeah, I’m not really sure what it was about, to be honest,” Smith said. “I mean, I haven’t said anything wrong.
I just don’t want to really talk about it anymore. I think it’s all said and done – let’s just get on with our job and try and play the Presidents Cup.”
Their friendship turned sour last week after Smith described Reed’s actions in a bunker at a tournament as cheating and his justification as “bulls–t”.
The Internationals retained their three-point Presidents Cup lead over the USA after splitting Friday’s foursomes at Royal Melbourne.
A stirring late fightback from the US kept Tiger Woods’ hot favourites in the contest after the Internationals at one stage held a 6-1 advantage and also led in the remaining three matches.
Smith did his best to make it about the golf on Friday, combining with young Korean Sungjae Im to tie with US duo Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler.
The world No.58 said he was “amped” after being made to wait an extra day to play, and that was evident in his start.
With the format requiring alternate shots, Smith iced the first two holes.
Smith chipped in to birdie the par-4 first and repeated the impressive feat on the par-5 second, rolling in an eight-metre putt from off the green for his team to go two up.
That lead alternated between one and two until the the 17th when the Americans levelled with a birdie and Im’s match-winner on the last just missed the mark.
Smith said he was pleased with his debut.
“We played really well all day and we stuck to our guns,” the 26-year-old said.
“Rickie and Gary played really good golf the last four or five holes to get it back to square, and we almost got them there on the last.
“I think it was a good day.”
Reed’s misery continued with his second loss, with he and Webb Simpson falling short against Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer.
The 2018 Masters champion came in for plenty of taunts from the bulging galleries at Royal Melbourne.
Reed gave as good as he got when he sank a birdie putt on the 11th and put his hand to his ear as if to ask the crowd where his cheers were before motioning shovelling.
After a 4-1 drubbing in Thursday’s fourballs, the US’s 21-year stranglehold on the cup looked to be slipping as the Internationals appeared on track to win their first foursomes session since 2005.
But Xander Shauffele and Patrick Cantlay sparked the US fightback with a dramatic win over Adam Hadwin and Joaquin Niemann, who had only trailed for two holes all afternoon before Cantlay drained a four-metre birdie putt on the last.
Minutes later, Woods and Justin Thomas – the USA’s only fourball winners on Thursday – again delivered to give the Americans their second win of the day.
Internationals captain Ernie Els was philosophical after watching his side let a potential 9-1 lead slip.
“Yeah, it’s perspective, isn’t it,” Els said.
“I’ve got to look at where we are. It’s easy to just look at where we could have been, because it was looking really unbelievable.
“But we’re in a very good position.”
Scott is lining up for his ninth Presidents Cup, with the Internationals looking to secure their first victory in 25 years.
He and Oosthuizen trailed by two after seven holes but went on a back-nine blitz to secure an emphatic victory as Johnson and Kuchar lamented their work on the greens.
“I felt like we played well. We had two three-putts there, not hitting bad putts. We lipped-out quite a few putts,” Johnson said.
“I felt like we played well, played solid. Obviously they played very well, too.
It was a tough match and we hung in there. We did get off to a nice start but this golf course is difficult, and especially it’s really difficult in alternate-shot.”