Internationals left with a mountain to climb to avoid a fourth straight defeat

Greg Norman needed his International side to win eight out of the 12 singles matches at Royal Melbourne overnight if they were to avoid a fourth-successive Presidents Cup defeat.

With Tiger Woods finally opening his account for the week in the third-day foursomes, the United States were due to go into last night’s final session with a commanding 13-9 lead.

Neither side has come back from such a deficit in the previous eight matches, although it has been done – America won the 1999 Ryder Cup in Boston from 10-6 behind.

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Jim Furyk has been the star of the show so far, winning three times with Phil Mickelson and then with Nick Watney when Mickelson was surprisingly omitted from the afternoon fourballs – at his own request according to captain Fred Couples.

Woods was persevered with despite starting with two losses, the first of them a record 7&6 hammering, and Couples felt justified when his controversial wild card pick gained revenge over Adam Scott and KJ Choi.

That was with Dustin Johnson rather than Steve Stricker as his partner, but the same pair then suffered a shock loss to Koreans YE Yang and KT Kim – the two men Norman had rested from the morning action.

Kim, the least well-known player in the event, made Woods pay for some putting lapses as the Internationals mounted a fightback.

They had lost the foursomes 4-1 to trail 11-6 overall, but then took the first three games after lunch.

However, the American tail wagged well in the rain. Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas beat Australians Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley 2&1 and then Furyk and Watney overcame Scott and Ernie Els on the final green.

Woods, without a tournament victory for over two years, had high hopes of double success on the day when he stood over a long eagle chance on the 15th.

But he three-putted after Kim had rolled in a 28-footer for birdie and, one down rather than one up, Woods missed 16-foot chances to level on the last two greens and Kim’s closing five-footer clinched the point.

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The former world No.1 will prefer to remember what happened in the morning.

Level with six to play, he and Johnson won the 13th, 14th and 16th, with Woods ending the contest by holing from almost 18 feet.

As on Thursday he shook hands, but no more, with Scott’s caddie Steve Williams, whose description of his former boss as a “black arsehole” at a caddies’ awards dinner in China a fortnight ago had given their clashes this week an extra edge.

Furyk and Mickelson are the only two unbeaten players in the match, America’s lead-off pair Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson being beaten 2&1 by Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel as they tried to make it four wins out of four.