Tiger Woods says his USA team had to work incredibly hard to pull off a huge come-from-behind victory over the Internationals at Royal Melbourne.
Led by their inspirational playing captain, 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, Webb Simpson and the maligned Patrick Reed and four halved matches were enough to secure the star-studded Americans a 16-14 victory.
Cup stalwart Matt Kuchar, who had lost all four of his previous singles encounters stretching back to 2011, 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 to ultimately square the South African as the US became the first team in the event’s 25-year history to win the Cup after trailing into the final day.
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-time major champion became the most prolific winner in Presidents Cup history, surpassing countryman and career-long rival Phil Mickelson’s 26 victories in the match-play competition.
“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,” said a jubilant Woods.
“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. We fought. Even the points we lost, we were making them earn every one of them.
And this Cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it, and we did.”
Johnson was never threatened in a four-and-three victory over Cup rookie Haotong Li that locked the scores 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 ironically 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 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.
Heading into Sunday’s singles debutant Smith was given little chance of taking down the world No.4.
But the 26-year-old world No.52 threw that script out the window with a gritty performance to secure a two-and-one comeback win over the 2017 PGA Championship winner.
With Team USA on the march, Smith said he knew the International team needed him to deliver a point.
“The Internationals on all the TVs around the golf course were down early, so I knew they kind of needed me so it was nice to come through,” Smith said.
He said playing in front of home fans who offered such vocal support had been special, finishing the tournament with one win, one loss and one tie from his three matches.
“Obviously the support for the Internationals this week has been really good – it’s just been awesome,” Smith said. “There’s no words really to describe the atmosphere.
“You don’t get stuff like that very often, so I’ve just try and enjoy it. Yeah, it was a good win for myself today, so much emotion in the match, and after the match, as well.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited and then kind of really gutted in the space of a few minutes.”
Home-town star Marc Leishman tied with Rickie Fowler in the last match.
After two days of heckling that has resulted in ill will at the event, Patrick Reed broke through on Sunday morning with a singles victory to put the US team in the lead for the first time during the tournament.
Reed ended a week from hell at Royal Melbourne with an emphatic four and two victory over the Internationals’ CT Pan, which was his first win from four matches, and gave his team a 11-10 lead.
Embroiled in a cheating scandal leading into the Cup, the world No.12 was targeted by the bulging galleries after he was strongly criticised by Australian golfers Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman.
He said the best way to quieten the fans was to make birdies.
“You make birdies, you don’t hear much,” Reed said.
If you come out storming, the crowd’s pretty quiet and I was able to do that today, kind of get going, and really silence the crowd a little bit.”
On Saturday evening Internationals captain Ernie Els responded to Tiger Woods’ complaints about the crowd heckling Reed.
Reed was forced to play the final singles session without his regular caddie Kessler Karain, who was banned by the PGA after getting into a scuffle with a heckling spectator during Saturday’s play.
Reed’s swing coach Kevin Kirk Gregory stepped in with the 2018 Masters champion blasting Pan off the course in the front nine.
Reed said the week had been a “tough” experience but he tried to shut out the haters and focus on his golf.
“The biggest thing is just to continue grinding and not let the crowds or other people get in the way of what you’re trying to do, and that’s play golf,” he said.
“The past couple of days were tough and today still wasn’t easy.”