The jubilant USA Team – photo Golfile
In the final analysis the outcome of the 2019 Presidents Cup came down to a weight of numbers, those numbers being the world ranking strength of the Americans compared to that of the Internationals who were so brave in their attempt to win the event for just the second occasion in the 13 times the event has been held since 1994.
The final result was 16 to 14 and perhaps, to a large extent, that margin represented just how close this Presidents Cup was, despite the disparity between the relative strengths of the teams.
Leading into today’s singles matches by a two-point margin, the Internationals needed only 5½ points of the 12 on offer today to take the encounter, but holding off the powerful Americans was never going to be an easy task and they would need to build some early momentum.
Working against them, however, was the presence of Tiger Woods who had intentionally put himself in the first match of the day in order that his current good form would lead to an early point for the Americans and set the tone for those behind on the golf course and that was exactly how it would work out.
It was thrust and counter thrust between Woods and Mexican, Abraham Ancer, however, especially over the opening nine holes and, although never behind in the match, Woods was still forced to fight hard for what was 3&2 victory.
When that first match had finished the score was 10-9 to the Internationals but with so many of the matches on the golf course favouring the Americans, the tide was turning in their favour and it was a case of whether the or not the Internationals could have any say in halting the increasing momentum being built by their opponents.
There were still enough points remaining in the matches on the golf course for there to be hope however and with half points from Adam Hadwin and Hideki Matsuyama and a full point from the impressive Sungjae Im it was 12 points each with another six points still up for grabs.
Patrick Cantlay added another point for the Americans when he defeated Joaquin Niemann 3&2 and the defending champions were ahead 13 – 12.
Wins by Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson took the total to 15 for the Americans and at that point they became mathematically unbeatable although when Cameron Smith defeated Justin Thomas, who had been 3 up early in their match, the USA could not lose the encounter but for the Internationals the door remained open to at least share the honours.
Until, that is, Matt Kuchar holed a putt at the 17th to go 1 up with one to play and therefore the worst he could do was a half point in his match against Louis Oosthuizen and the result had been determined in favour of the Americans.
The final match on the golf course was between Marc Leishman and Rickie Fowler and that they shared honours was a fitting end to a close match and a week in which both teams felt like they could win or lose.
So, the Americans are successful again in this very statistically one-sided contest but this week the contest was far less one-sided than any stats could indicate.
To have kept the outcome in doubt until late into Sunday afternoon ensured there was interest for the huge crowds that flocked to Royal Melbourne and a worldwide audience to the very end and confirmed that the final result was perhaps not as predictable as the relative strengths of the suggested it might be.
Tiger Woods showed raw emotion in his post event interviews. Clearly this was a very proud moment and a special achievement in a career full of achievements.
“We won and we did it together,” said Woods highlighting his pleasure in being part of a team. “I’ve been a part of teams before where we have won. Also been a part of, unfortunately, this Presidents Cup when we lost 21 years ago, and so to come here and to do it in this fashion, to do it with this team, in particular, it was an honor for me as a player and even more of an honor to be their captain.
“Each individual team is unique and it’s different. It has its own organic feel to it, and these guys, we’ve all bonded together. We did it together. We were coming down, I mean, I think J.T. said it out there, was it 26 hours and change — 26 hours and change coming down here; it was a commitment to do this.
“We came out here, trying to get over the jet-lag, trying to figure this out, trying to figure this golf course out,
trying to get a feel for the pairings and how we’re going to do this, and we’re in it together, and all of a sudden
Kuch makes that putt and it’s finally over.”
“I had faith in all the 11 other players,” added Woods when referring to the order he sent out players today. “We love the lineup. We love how we set it up going into the singles. We all knew that we were all playing well on this golf course; in particular, with this lineup, we felt like we were going to get it done and we did it.”
Ernie Els appeared exhausted from the incredible role he played in bringing together an eclectic mix of nationalities and individuals to the point where they had the Americans on the ropes for a lengthy part of this week.
“I can only give them my love,” said the South African. “They tried so hard. They played so hard for each other and the team, and to buy into something new like I tried, I really have to take my hat off to every one of them.
“There are a lot of young, young players, a lot of players that the world has never seen or heard but you will see them a lot in the future. I have admiration for my guys and the caddies and the wives, it’s been fantastic.
“We’re getting closer. We’ve just got to keep it up. You know, our team is not as deep as the U.S. Team. All credit to the U.S. Team. They have an absolute stacked team. They have great champions, major champions. We’re building on that.”
Els was asked whether there was anything that might be changed to make the event even better and he created quite a talking point with his response.
“I know it’s a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event, okay, but to really be able to do what you need to do, you need to
be almost a separate — you need to be away from the PGA TOUR.
“I mean, I love these guys, they work for the Tour and all that, but to make our own rules, to get our own choices, to do our own thing, I mean, it’s hard to explain. But we need to be separate.
“That’s a long, long process. I don’t think it will happen very soon. But you know, The Ryder Cup works because of the Europeans do their own thing and the U.S. do their own thing, you know, and it’s two groups that clash.
“We’re trying to do it under one umbrella, so under the TOUR’s office, under their roof, you know, and there’s a
lot of things that clash.”
It was a week that had it all. Tiger Woods in action and playing well, a contest that remained in doubt until late in the day and a stunning 95 year old golf course which remains relevant despite the modern game.