The USA have completed a historic Presidents Cup triumph over the Internationals at Royal Melbourne. Led by inspirational playing captain Tiger Woods, the US turned a 10-8 overnight deficit into cup glory after dominating Sunday’s singles session.
Wins for Woods, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and the maligned Patrick Reed, two halved matches plus a guaranteed half point for Matt Kuchar were enough to secure the star-studded Americans a 16-14 victory.
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Kuchar, who had lost all four of his previous Presidents Cup singles encounters, clinched victory with a birdie on the 17th hole to go one up against Louis Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen had been three up at the turn before Kuchar produced a tenacious back-nine comeback as the US became the first team in the event’s 25-year history to win the cup after trailing into the final day.
“It was an honour for me as a player and even more of an honour to be their captain,” Woods said. “It’s been one of the more amazing challenges but all the guys, they believed in one another. We relied on one another as a team and we did it together.
“I trust all my 11 guys. I trust them implicitly; I told them from the very get go. They went out there and got the points we needed. This cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it, and we did.”
Woods sparked the US fightback when he downed the Internationals’ previously unbeaten spearhead Abraham Ancer three-and-two in the opening singles match. In doing so, the 15-times major champion became the most prolific winner in Presidents Cup history, surpassing countryman and career-long rival Phil Mickelson’s 26 victories in the matchplay competition.
Johnson was never threatened in a four-and-three victory over Cup rookie Haotong Li that locked the scores up at 10-all. Defeat for Li earned the Chinese youngster a dubious place in the history books as the only International player not to contribute even half a point at the 2019 edition.
After losing his previous three matches in a horror week, Reed gave the US the lead for the first time since Thursday morning with his four-and-two success against CT Pan. In a cruel blow for the Internationals, Hideki Matsuyama then blew a four-up lead to square with Tony Finau.
Sungjae Im restored hope for the underdogs with a four-and-three win over US Open champion Gary Woodland that locked the scores up at 11.5 points apiece before Adam Hadwin scrambled to square his match with Bryson DeChambeau.
But a three-and-two win for Cantlay over Joaquin Niemann, a two-and-one victory for Shauffele over Adam Scott (Internationals) and Webb Simpson’s two-and-one defeat of Byeong Hun An gave the Americans an insurmountable three-point buffer.
Not even Cameron Smith’s stirring two-and-one comeback victory over the previously undefeated Justin Thomas could save the Internationals from another beating after Kuchar sealed the deal. Hometown star Marc Leishman tied Rickie Fowler in the last match.
Finau credited 43-year-old Woods, the USA’s oldest player who completed one of sport’s greatest comebacks this year to win the Masters, for the Houdini act.
“I was four down with eight to go and I basically told myself, ‘I can’t give up on my teammates, my guys, my captain’,” Finau said.
“Tiger, the story of his resilience, coming back from what he has with injuries and everything that he’s been through, I think each of us, we just believe in each other because we know we could do what we did today, and we really believed that we could win the cup. We were kind of against the odds, but we are very inspired to play for Tiger, with Tiger, and it’s so satisfying to win this cup because of that.”
Repors via Australian Associated Press