By: John Chidley-Hill/Golf Canada
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith made Canadian history twice at the Presidents Cup and, although they’re disappointed in the result, they’re ready for more.
It was the first time two Canadians had ever played at the prestigious best-on-best tournament that sees 12 Americans take on 12 players from around the world, excluding Europe. When the longtime friends were partnered on Friday they became the first-ever Canadians to play together at the storied tournament.
But Conners, from Listowel, Ont., lost to Xander Schauffele 1 up in Sunday’s seventh match to clinch the American victory. Pendrith, from Richmond Hill, Ont., also lost his match in the event’s final round when he dropped a 3 and 1 decision to Tony Finau.
Ultimately, the United States beat the international team 17.5 to 12.5 for its 12th Presidents Cup title.
The Canadians were the only members of the international team not to earn a point over the four-day, five-session tournament. Conners said he was disappointed to not maintain the international team’s momentum in the final round.
“All the guys were ready to go today,” said Conners by the 18th green. “Some of the guys got some points early to keep us in it.
“I’m really disappointed not to be able to add to our total, but it was a fun week.”
The biennial event alternates between courses in the U.S. and international locations. The next edition will be at Royal Montreal Golf Club, which last hosted in 2007 when Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., had a legendary showdown with Tiger Woods in the final round.
“It’s definitely going to be a goal of mine to make that team,” said Pendrith, who like Conners made his Presidents Cup debut. “This week was great, and I’m hungry to get some points.”
The U.S. dominated the first two days of play, building a commanding 8-2 lead. But the internationals gained ground on Saturday, finishing the fourth session just four points back.
With the U.S. leading 11-7 and needing just 15.5 points to win, American captain Davis Love III was aggressive in his picks for individual play, putting Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth – his most consistent players – into Sunday’s first two matches.
That gamble produced mixed results with South Korea’s Si Woo Kim beating Thomas 1 up but Spieth topped Australia’s Cam Davis 4 and 3.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama tied Sam Burns and Patrick Cantlay downed Australia’s Adam Scott 3 and 2.
Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz kept the internationals in it with a 2 and 1 victory over Scottie Scheffler before Pendrith and Conners lost their matches as the Americans clinched their title.
Finau jumped out to a 2 up lead in his match against Pendrith, but the Canadian answered back with birdies on the third and fourth holes to tie it.
Pendrith made a 33-foot chip in on the par-3 sixth hole for a birdie and his first lead of the match. He also birdied the next hole, but Finau birdied on Nos. 9 and 12 to tie the match, then pulled ahead with birdies on Nos. 13, 16 and 17.
“I felt like I played decent today in the middle of the round and had some chances on the back nine,” said Pendrith by the 17th green. “No. 15 stings. No. 16, I hit a good putt, but Tony played really good as well.
“He made seven or eight birdies or something like that. Can’t really do much about that.”
Schauffele and Conners were tied through the first five holes, but the American eagled and had a birdie on Nos. 6 and 7 to take a lead. He added to that when Conners bogeyed No. 10. The Canadian rallied with three consecutive won holes, starting with No. 12, to even the score.
Conners bogeyed the par-4 15th hole, which Schauffele parred, and the American held on the rest of the way.
“It was a good battle. I feel like every match I got down, every match I fought back,” said Conners. “Ultimately I came up a little short, but good stuff.”
Play continued, however, with the remaining matches being seen to completion. South Korea’s Sungjae Im bested Cameron Young 1 up. Billy Horschel conceded to South Korea’s K.H. Lee for a 3 and 1 internationals win.
Max Homa fended off fan favourite Tom Kim of South Korea for a 1 up win, Collin Morikawa beat Chile’s Mito Pereira 3 and 2, and in the day’s final match South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout downed Kevin Kisner 2 and 1.
Ryan Hart, the executive director of the 2024 Presidents Cup, said he hopes that Royal Montreal will truly feel like an away game for the Americans.
“All the structures will be wrapped black and gold,” said Hart, gesturing to the white-sheathed structures at Quail Hollow. “So (the international team) can come out and we can hopefully have the entire country feel like they are part of the international team and cheer them on to victory.”
The atmosphere at the Presidents Cup has changed in the 15 years since Canada last hosted the event. Organizers said that 40,000 spectators attended the Presidents Cup every day, a massive gathering for golf that was amplified because those crowds were concentrated around just four or five groups the first three days of the tournament.
Pendrith said that it was the most people he had ever played in front of but he feels like he rose to the occasion.
“Obviously, the stakes were really high. Lots of pressure,” said Pendrith. “But the first day, I feel like I handled it pretty well.
“Really, all week, it was a lot of fun, and it will be a good experience to move forward.”