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USA Complete Stunning Comeback to Clinch Presidents Cup

By: | Mon 16 Dec 2019

HAVING led after every session, it all went wrong for Ernie Els’ International team when it really mattered as the USA claimed eight of the possible 12 points in the singles to win the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne yet again.

International captain Ernie Els said that he had a plan going into the event and he stuck with it, but it all came undone on the final day, and Els took the blame for his team’s defeat. But the fact is that the Internationals gave Tiger Woods’ team one heck of a fright in what was a thrilling four days of competition. The hosts took a 10-8 lead into the final day at Royal Melbourne but won just two of the 12 singles matches - another four were halved - as the Americans retained the trophy.

Els put five of his seven debutants in the first seven matches and only South Korean Sungjae Im claimed a win as he defeated Gary Woodland 4&3. In contrast, US captain Tiger Woods put himself out first and he eased to a 3&2 victory over Mexican rookie Abraham Ancer before Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed also claimed emphatic wins.

"I could have made different choices in the singles today," said Els. "I can take it on my shoulders. It is what it is. The questions will come from you guys and the public that I made mistakes in the selection of where I put my players, but I followed a plan from 100%, and it didn't quite work out, but we came damn close."

The Internationals' only win in the event was at Royal Melbourne in 1998. Els' team was the youngest ever fielded by the Internationals in the event's 25-year history and they had only Adam Scott in the world's top 20, compared to the United States' 10 players but for the first three days they appeared to be on the way to producing a huge upset.

"If you compare our team on paper with other teams in other sport, you would have laughed us out of the building," added Els. "But we gave it a hell of a go and we came mightily close to winning and upsetting one of the greatest golf teams of all time. We were right there to the end, just a couple of matches didn't quite go our way. We're getting closer. We've just got to keep it up."

Woods was delighted with the way his team battled back. He clinched a record 27th win in the event with his victory over Ancer in the opening singles."We did it together," he said. "We came here as a team. My teammates and my boys all played well, the captains did an amazing job. It's been one of the more amazing challenges but all the guys, they believed in one another and relied on one another This cup wasn't going to be given to us. We had to go earn it. And we did."

Patrick Reed, a man who is seldom far from the limelight, bounced back from three defeats to overcome CT Pan 4&2 with his swing coach Kevin Kirk on his bag after his caddie, brother-in-law Kessler Karain, was kick out of the event on Saturday after clashing with a spectator. Reed was barracked throughout the event after being penalised at the Hero World Challenge for improving his lie in a bunker. And the American admitted that it had been a difficult time.

"The last couple of days were tough and today wasn't easy," said Reed. "I played some amazing golf but he put the pressure right back on me."

Reed was criticised by members of Els' team including Australian Cameron Smith, who said he "doesn't have any sympathy for anyone that cheats”. "You make birdies, you don't hear much," said Reed, who was six up after seven holes. "Early on this week, we didn't get up in our matches. If you get up in your match, the crowd will be pretty quiet. I was able to do that and silence a couple.”

Entering Sunday, Woods told his team that the Internationals had holed a few more putts during the first four team sessions and he was certain things would be different in the singles. “We’re going to be fine,” he told them. He was right. Woods won his own match to finish the week unbeaten. Reed won. Dustin Johnson was five up through 11. The Americans won or tied the first five matches of the day.

Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson played 50 holes on Sunday and only trailed after two of them. Schauffele was four up through seven holes on the way to beating Australian veteran Adam Scott. “Xander, to beat Adam Scott on really a course that he plays very well, was really a huge point,” said US vice-captain Fred Couples.

The honour of holing the winning putt went to Matt Kuchar when he rolled in a five-footer for a birdie at the 17th to secure at least a half with Louis Oosthuizen.

"For us to be in a hole, to come back and win this thing - to win it as a team, but to do it with Tiger Woods as our captain was just a huge thrill," he said. "We had a roomful of some of the greatest golfers in the world, and when he speaks, we listen. I think all of us will look back and have these pictures hanging on our walls and say, 'We played for and alongside Tiger Woods, the greatest player ever.' It was awesome.”

The next Presidents Cup is in 2021 at Quail Hollow. Before that, the Americans need to find a way of replicating the spirit they show in this event in the Ryder Cup, when they face Europe at Whistling Straits next year.

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Tags: tiger woods Presidents Cup PGA Tour

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