Asian players starring for Internationals at Presidents Cup
By DENNIS PASSA
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) 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 occasion 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 fourballs, 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.
In Saturday afternoon's foursomes, An and and Joaquin Niemann, 2 down after 13 holes, halved their match with Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau. Im and Cameron Smith lost their match to Schauffele and Cantlay 2 and 1.
That left the International team with 10-8 points lead going into Sunday's 12 singles matches.
The fifth member of the Asian connection, Li Haotong 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 is there to kind of set the tone, so I'm just there to help out with whatever I can."
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."
Matsuyama said despite the language differences, the International team is "coming together."
"We've had great chemistry in the past, but I can feel a sense of unity," Matsuyama said.
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Updated December 14, 2019