Tiger comes up trumps as US reigns at Presidents Cup
December 16, 2019
Captain stars on final day to deny Els’ Internationals
The International Team suffered a gut-wrenching 16-14 Presidents Cup loss to the United States in Australia after the Americans staged a historic final-day fightback, led by playing captain Tiger Woods.
Fifteen-time major winner Woods, who picked himself in Sunday’s first match at Royal Melbourne, beat the previously undefeated Abraham Ancer 3&2 to rally his team from two points down to win the singles session 8-4.
It was the first time a team has won the Presidents Cup when trailing at the start of Sunday’s singles.
Woods surpassed Phil Mickelson for the most wins in the tournament’s history, with 27. The 43-year-old was undefeated for the second time in the event, going 3-0 this week. He was 5-0 in 2009.
Leading 10-8 overnight after some inspired performances in the fourball and foursomes sessions, the Internationals, captained by Ernie Els, could not prevent the US juggernaut from claiming its eighth straight victory, with Matt Kuchar clinching the winning half point thanks to a tie with Louis Oosthuizen in the penultimate match.
South Korea’s Im Sung-jae enjoyed a successful Presidents Cup debut by contributing 3.5 points. That included an impressive 4&3 victory over reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland, which for a while provided the International Team with a glimmer of hope.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama let slip a 4-up lead through 10 holes against Tony Finau to settle for a tie, while the Chinese mainland’s Li Haotong went down 4&3 to world No 2 Dustin Johnson. Chinese Taipei’s CT Pan fell 4&2 to Patrick Reed as his debut ended with a 2-1-0 record.
Els was proud with how his International Team, which featured seven rookies, battled against the powerful American side.
“It’s been an incredible week. The players were just incredible. They were open to a new formula, so to speak, and embraced what I said to them. You know, we lost 16-14 and we’ve got to swallow that,” said the South African legend.
“But great strides were made, especially in our team play. I really felt that our team play was really the core of our team, and that never was previously. We never felt like we could play foursomes or fourball together as a team. We did that well.
“I think the US Team, and I think you guys (the media), and the people around the world will look at these (International) guys in a different way.
“If you compare our team on paper with other teams in other sports, you would have laughed us out of the building. 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.
“If you look at their record and where these guys are at the moment, they are going places…. we had guys playing for the first time, and I can only see their futures going in a great manner.”
Im, the 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, was disappointed to be on the losing team despite his impressive debut.
“I really tried my best to score a point for the Internationals, and I’m happy to have done that and I really wanted to beat Gary. It was a good match,” said the Korean.
“I was hitting the ball so well, especially when I was warming up on the range. I felt like my ball-striking was so good and I knew that if I putted well, the match would end well. So I’m incredibly happy with the way things turned out.”
Li, the first golfer from the Chinese mainland to feature in the Presidents Cup, was let down by his short game in his defeat to Johnson.
“I actually felt good, especially on the back nine. I made a lot of mistakes on the front side and gave him a few holes,” said Li.
“Although I played only two matches this week, I feel really good now. I hope I can play some good golf on such occasions next time. I don’t know how many more President Cups I will play in the future. This is just the beginning.”