By Jim SLATER
Internationals captain Trevor Immelman, whose Presidents Cup squad was decimated by defectors to the LIV Golf Series, laughed off the well wishes of LIV commissioner Greg Norman on Friday.
The United States won three four-ball (best ball) matches and tied two more Friday to seize an 8-2 lead, matching the most lopsided two-session US margin in Presidents Cup history.
“The score means we’ve got to get better, and we will. Plain and simple,” Immelman said. “There are two days left and we’ll be playing as hard as we can.”
The Internationals were hit hard when half a team’s worth of top players jumped from the PGA Tour to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, making them ineligible for the Cup.
Among those who jilted the global squad were British Open winner Cam Smith of Australia, Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Aussie Marc Leishman.
The Internationals have pushed the Americans to the 17th hole in eight of the first 10 matches, leaving their supporters to wonder what difference a full lineup might have made.
So it was interesting when Norman tweeted a message to the group his efforts helped diminish, leaving a US squad with 10 of the world’s 16 top-ranked players a heavy favorite over a global group robbed of several high-ranked stars.
“Outside of all this angst -— golf is golf, competition is competition; something every golfer thrives on,” Norman wrote.
“As a former player & Captain of the International Team, I wish @TrevorImmelman & his entire team the very best in repeating our only 1998 @PresidentsCup success in Melbourne.”
Immelman, a South African, made a three-letter reply Friday — “LOL” — and made it clear that “laughing out loud” was his instant reaction to Norman’s tweet.
“I’m an extremely open and honest person. I pretty much say it exactly as I’m thinking it,” Immelman said. “What I said was exactly what I was doing when I read that tweet. I was laughing out loud.
“I learned long ago that lying is dangerous because you’ve got to have a good memory. So I’d rather just tell the truth.”
His remarks followed another poor start for the Internationals, who led for only one hole in one match on the front nine in each of the first two days, followed by back-nine fightbacks that fell flat.
“We keep pushing. Until it’s over, we’re going to try to have the hope,” Chile’s Mito Pereira said.
“Every day you’ve got to fight really hard. It’s not easy. They make a lot of putts. If we can make some putts in the next two days, it’s going to be tight.”
– ‘Spirit still good’ –
South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who joined Pereira in a tie Friday, said the squad is not hanging heads.
“Overall the spirit of the team is still good, and we’re ready to keep the fight going,” he said.
“Everybody thought it was going to be a walk over us this week, but most of the games went down to the last. We’re putting up a good fight against this strong US side.”
“Hopefully we can turn the tide tomorrow and get the momentum going on our side.”
Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz, who joined Im Sung-jae in another tie, called Saturday “make or break.”
“We have to keep in touch for Sunday,” he said. “And we have a lot of gap to recover from.”
The Americans could clinch before Sunday’s 12 singles matches by winning 7.5 points in Saturday’s eight matches.
Australian Adam Scott is looking like he could remain winless after his 10th Cup appearance.
“All the losses are tough to cop,” Scott said. “Just on the back foot for two days. So it has been a grind.
“To see the fight there in everyone and drag (the matches) out and make them really work for it, that’s all you can ask for.” — Agence France-Presse