Danny Lee’s rollercoaster Presidents Cup debut ends with loss

New Zealand golfer Danny Lee’s rollercoaster Presidents Cup debut for the International team has ended in double disappointment.

Lee lost his singles match 2 and 1 to Dustin Johnson and the International team lost a nailbiter on a thrilling final day at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Seoul, South Korea, the Americans prevailing 15.5-14.5 in the four-day, biennial teams event.

Lee made a horrible start to his singles match on Sunday (NZT) by going three down in the first three holes, and the signs were ominous against the classy big-hitting American.

But Johnson found the water off the tee at the fourth hole, gifting the 25-year-old Kiwi a hole back and he grew in confidence from there playing in the third of 12 singles matches.

He won the seventh hole and was back level after a fine birdie at the 11th, then nailing a 20-footer for par at the 13th to maintain the deadlock. Lee took his only lead of the day with a par at the short par-four 14th, Johnson finding the creek with his tee shot and failing to prevent a bogey.

But that was as good as it got for Lee as he faltered under pressure, notching three successive bogeys at the par-five 15th, the long par-four 16th and the tough par-three 17th. Johnson was steady, meanwhile, and claimed the 2 and 1 victory.

The International team’s fortunes had not fared much better than Lee’s personal ones early on the final day. The American team took a 9.5-8.5 advantage into the 12 singles matches and at one stage they led nine of them.

But the Internationals made a stirring comeback and almost snatched an unlikely win as they clawed their way back in from of their homes fans.

In the end the United States needed Bill Haas’ 2-up victory over local hero Sang Moon Bae in the final match to win by a single point, Haas delivering for his father Jay Haas, the US captain.

Bae had a chance to square the tie by winning the final hole but he duffed his third shot, a chip from near the green, and that was that.

Haas choked back emotion and then chided himself for doing so. “It’s just golf,” he said. Jay Haas couldn’t even get started before his voice cracked during a TV interview. He treated his son like one of the 12 Americans all week, but this moment suddenly turned special.

“When we put him out 12th, I had no idea, obviously, that was going to happen,” the captain said. “But he played beautiful.”

The turning point came an hour earlier when India’s Anirban Lahiri lost 1-up to Chris Kirk. The tie was all square at 12.5 points each, and the match was all square going up the last. Lahiri looked like he would snatch a vital win to edge the hosts ahead when he chipped his third shot to the par-five to three feet, and Kirk put his to 15 feet.

However, Kirk nailed his putt first and Lahiri missed under pressure. Had the result been reversed, the Internationals would have won 15.5-14.5.

Lee, too, will be rueing what might have been having gone up against Johnson midway through the back nine.

Lee had a mixed week, finishing with two losses – he also lost his Thursday foursomes match playing alongside Australian Marc Leishman – and one win in the Friday fourballs where Bae carried the Kiwi.

The Internationals have not won the cup since 1998, though they tied in 2003.

“I don’t think it could have got a whole lot more exciting than that,” International captain Nick Price said. “I can’t tell you what it’s like to bring eight countries together, six different languages, different cultures. … They bonded, and I tell you what, I’m so proud.

“Irrelevant of the outcome – we obviously would have loved to have won – we put on a show of golf this week.”

– with Agencies.

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