The Presidents Cup

The Presidents Cup

The Presidents Cup
Melbourne, Australia
Winners: United States

Tiger Woods always did seem to get the better of Ernie Els on the course. So, too, when the pair made their first attempts at captaining their respective Presidents Cup teams. Except that Woods was still playing himself — the first to double up since Hale Irwin at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994 — and the playing captain led the USA to a narrow comeback victory 16-14 at Royal Melbourne, scene in 1998 of what remains the International
team’s sole win.

Woods the captain was helped immeasurably by having Woods the player leading the way, winning the first point on the first day and, America having trailed ever since, posting the first win on Sunday, when the USA won the singles for the first time since 2009. Usually, they don’t need to, but from 8-10 down they won the singles 8-4 for the first ever come-from-behind victory in the Presidents Cup. Woods was the only player on either side to have a 100 percent record, winning all three of his matches. The 43-year-old gave a master class in plotting his way around the classic sand belt course, winning twice with Justin Thomas and then defeating Abraham Ancer, 3 and 2, in the singles.

Once his matches were over, Woods had to reclaim the captain’s walkie-talkie from one of his assistants — Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker — and catch up on the status of the other matches to which he had been oblivious while concentrating on his own game. On Saturday, Woods dropped himself from both sessions to work on the pairings and prepare for his singles.

Against the highest ever world-ranked U.S. Presidents Cup team, even after No. 1 Brooks Koepka had to withdraw due to injury, Els molded a young International team from nine countries and with seven rookies into a force that gave the visitors a mighty scare. A former winner at Royal Melbourne, Els and assistant Geoff Ogilvy, the local man, instructed their team how to handle the Alistair Mackenzie masterpiece, and the home team won the first day of fourballs 4-1. It was the first time the Internationals had led since 2005. They went 6-1 ahead during Friday’s foursomes and a sweep was on the cards at one point before the USA won twice at the 18th and earned a half in the anchor match to get out of the session all square.

The Internationals edged 9-5 ahead after Saturday’s fourballs, but the Americans rallied in the afternoon foursomes to get within two points. Fol – lowing Woods on Sunday, wins by Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed put the USA in front. Reed had lost all three of his previous matches while being heckled for the incident at the Hero World Challenge the previous week when he was penalized for improving his lie in a bunker. After the third session, his caddie Kessler Karain shoved a spectator and was stood down for the final day.

Sungjae Im, the 21-year-old Korean rookie, beat U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland to finish with a record of three wins, one loss and one half, the same as former Australian Open champion Ancer, whose only defeat came against Woods. There were halves for Hideki Matsuyama against Tony Finau and Adam Hadwin against Bryson DeChambeau, but then came three wins for America from Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson.

Cantlay and Schauffele both finished with three wins and two losses, while Thomas had three and a half points after losing to Australian rookie Cameron Smith. An overall tie was possible when the Internationals had led in each of the last two matches, but both Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler rallied to earn halves. Kuchar secured the winning point in the penultimate match after coming back from three down to Louis Oosthuizen at the turn with five birdies putting him one up with one to play.

“We did it together,” Woods said. “We came here as a team. I couldn’t have done it without all the assistants’ help and all my boys. We fought. This cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it, and we did.” Els said of his team: “I can only give them my love. They played so hard for each other. There are a lot of young players, a lot of players that the world has never seen or heard, but you will see them a lot in the future. We’re getting closer. Our team is not as deep as the U.S. team. All credit to the U.S. team. They have an absolute stacked team.”


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