JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner rehearsed the dance from "Three Amigos." The only question was whether to use it at the Presidents Cup, and as the veteran of 23 team events, Mickelson concluded it would need to be a big moment.
Their match was all square on the 18th hole Friday. Mickelson was 12 feet away for birdie. A victory would give the Americans a record lead.
"If this putt goes in," Mickelson said he told his rookie partner, "we're going to dance."
This turned out to be one big dance party for an American team that has gone nearly two decades without losing. They hammered the International teams on the back nine to go unbeaten in fourballs and build an 8-2 lead, the largest margin after two sessions since the Presidents Cup began in 1994.
Mickelson had his 24th match victory to tie the Presidents Cup record held by Tiger Woods, and he set a record with his 10th victory in fourballs.
As for that dance ?
It looked a little awkward, though Mickelson did slightly better than when he cropped most of his face out of a selfie he took during the opening ceremony with the last three U.S. presidents.
"I'm clearly the worst selfie taker. I'm the worst 'Three Amigos' dancer," Mickelson said. "But I can putt."
So can his teammates, who have followed the script set out by U.S. captain Steve Stricker to win every session. They won handily in the other three matches. The other match was a halve, but even in that one, Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin had a 2-up lead with four holes to play until Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed rallied. The Americans nearly won that one, too, except that Spieth narrowly missed birdie putts on the last two holes.
"Our guys stepped up again," Stricker said. "They have a knack for doing that. To finish like that is huge for us going into tomorrow."
Mathematically, the International team could be done Saturday, the first day of a double session — four matches of foursomes in the morning, following by four matches of fourballs in the afternoon. The Americans are 7 1/2 points away from clinching the cup.
"I think we saw the strength of the U.S. team come out today," Price said.
He also saw his team play its worst golf on the back nine at Liberty National. The Americans won 13 holes on the back nine. The Internationals won three.
Price was not about to give up, hopeful of gaining some momentum in the morning and riding it into the afternoon ahead of the 12 singles matches on the final day.
"We're only 10 points through 30. There's 20 points left," Price said. "We are not laying down. These guys are going to come out fighting over the next two days, and especially tomorrow."
Justin Thomas, already with a big year behind him as a major champion and the FedEx Cup champion, teamed with Rickie Fowler for another easy victory. They have trailed only one hole in their two matches, and they became the first partnership to beat Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace.
They took the lead for good when Fowler made a 15-foot birdie putt on the third hole, and then Thomas produced the loudest cheer of the afternoon at a pivotal moment on the 14th hole. Oosthuizen hit his approach to 6 feet, while both Americans missed the green. From the left bunker, Thomas blasted out perfectly and watched it drop in for a birdie that kept the International team from cutting the deficit to 1 down.
Thomas birdied the next hole, and his bunker shot on the 16th hit the pin and somehow stayed out.
The shortest match of the day belonged to a pair of American rookies, Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman, who sat out the foursomes matches in the opening session. They were 3 up after four holes against Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri and never let up in a 6-and-5 victory.
Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, close friends and the last two U.S. Open champions, took their first lead on the par-3 10th with Koepka's birdie, and Johnson showed rare emotion on his final two birdies in a 3-and-2 victory over Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas.
Scott set a record of his own — it was his 19th loss in the Presidents Cup, breaking the record held by Ernie Els.
The Americans have a 9-1-1 lead in the series, their only loss coming in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. But it has at least been close after the opening two sessions, with neither side leading by more than two points since 1998.
"We're going to keep the pedal down," Hoffman said. "These guys are going to keep pushing us. We're not going to get complacent where we're at right now."
A capsule look at Friday's fourballs matches at the Presidents Cup:
Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin, International, halved with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, United States.
Spieth and Reed were 2 down with four holes to play and disappointed with a halve. Hadwin and Matsuyama lost a 2-up lead with four holes to play and were happy to at least have something out of the match. Matsuyama ran off three birdies on the front nine for a 2-up lead at the turn, and Hadwin's birdie at the 13th restored the lead to 2 up. The Americans rallied quickly. Reed holed a 15-foot birdie on the 15th, and Spieth hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th to 6 feet for birdie to square the match. The Americans had birdie putts to win the 17th and 18th. Spieth missed from 8 feet, and his 20-foot putt on the 18th hit the left edge and spun out.
Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas, United States, def. Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, International, 3 and 2.
Oosthuizen and Grace lost for the first time in six matches together at the Presidents Cup, and Oosthuizen lost for the first time since a Saturday foursomes match at Muirfield Village in 2013. They both missed 8-foot putts to win holes early in the match. Fowler made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 3 for a 1-up lead, and the Americans never trailed. Thomas led the charge over the back end of the match, with two big birdies. He got up-and-down from left the 12th green for birdie to half the hole and stay 2 up. And on the 14th, Grace was 6 feet away for birdie and poised to cut into the lead. Thomas holed his bunker shot for the Americans to stay 2 up, and Thomas birdied the next hole for a 3-up lead.
Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner, United States, def. Jason Day and Marc Leishman, International, 1 up.
Mickelson tied Tiger Woods for most matches won (24) in the Presidents Cup, and he did it in style. Day and Leishman opened with four straight birdies for a 2-up lead and the International team was 6 under on the front, though still only 2 up. Kisner's birdie on the 11th cut the deficit, and Kisner delivered another big birdie putt from 20 feet on the 15th to square the match. It remained tied going to the 18th. Day and Kisner came up short. Mickelson and Leishman hit their tee shots to about 12 feet. Mickelson holed the putt, and Leishman missed.
Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman, United States, def. Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri, International, 6 and 5.
Two of the American rookies who sat out in the opening session made a debut that lasted only 13 holes. The International team was wild off the opening tee and made bogey and conceded Hoffman's 3-foot eagle attempt on the second hole. Chappell took it from there with birdies on No. 4 and an approach to 4 feet on No. 8. Chappell's third birdie on the front nine gave his side a 5-up lead at the turn. Lahiri and Schwartzel won only one hole when both players stuffed tee shots on the par-3 10th to 3 feet. Lahiri three-putted from 40 feet to lose the 12th, and Hoffman ended it with a birdie on the 13th.
Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, United States, def. Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas, International, 3 and 2.
This had the trappings of the closest match of the day, with each team winning two holes on the front nine and the match all square going to the back. Koepka hit his tee shot on the par-3 10th to 12 feet and made the birdie to give his team its first lead of the match, and Johnson got up-and-down on the reachable par-4 12th for a 2-up lead. Vegas birdied the next hole from 35 feet, and that's when Johnson took over. He holed a bending, 20-foot birdie putt on No. 15, and then closed out the match on the par-3 16th hole with a tee shot to 5 feet for birdie.