Despite rain that totaled 1.6 inches, various injuries and many uncertainties regarding match ups, the Americans ensured Fred Couples would be 3-0 as a captain by winning 18.5 to 15.5 over the International Team.
That’s not to say though that Couples was not nervous at any time though.
“I must have asked 500 times, you know, how are we getting this fourth point, where is the fourth point coming from,” Couples said. “I kept texting Davis and Jay, because yeah, you’re nervous. You’re nervous, not for the players; the players know what they are doing.
“We knew we needed 18 points, and we got them. I think it was a very, very good match today, and the matches were all close. At no given time was I a nervous wreck, but it was nice when Tiger 2‑putted that last green to get the 18th point.”
In the end it was Tiger Woods who came through earning the clinching point for the third straight Presidents Cup. This despite being in clear pain with a back injury that was first noted on the 14th hole.
“It’s the same thing as it was at Barclays,” Woods said. “It went out on me at 14 and from then on, it just kept getting worse. You know, hey, I got a point for our team so that’s all that matters. We played a lot of holes and a lot of start, stopping the last couple days, so a lot of guys on our team are dinged up, and unfortunately I was one of them.”
Although it was a questionable match that almost seemed unfair, Woods’ opponent Richard Sterne kept things close forcing Woods to the 18th hole, but ultimately much like his teammates ran out of time.
“We were just a few too many points behind,” Sterne said. “They were quite a head of us in the foursomes, and they kind of made it really tough. We gave it a good go today. They made more putts than us and that’s what it came down to.”
Here is a recap of what happened Sunday:
Jason Day (INT) defeats Brandt Snedeker (USA) 6 & 4
If anyone knows this course well it’s Jason Day. Day calls Muirfield his home course and backed it up with a 3-1 record for the week.
“It feels great to come out‑‑ this is obviously my home course, and I really enjoy coming here and playing,” Day said. I heard a lot of “USAs” out there but I had a lot of support. The fans were great this week, and the Fanatics that came all the way from Australia, singing the songs and chanting us along, it was great to see.”
Day won four of the first six holes and from there cruised, even after Snedeker won the seventh and ninth holes. Day’s birdie on 14 sealed the deal.
“It was good to finish off with a bang like that,” Day said. “I’ve been playing great golf the whole week, and I just wish it was a little bit closer.
Hunter Mahan (USA) defeats Hideki Matsuyama (INT) 3 & 2
Mahan knows match play and what it takes to win in the format winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2012 and was runner up this year. His confidence made him want to go first for his team.
“I always like being first out, I don’t know why, just a comfort thing, but it is critical,” Mahan said. “You can’t give them momentum, because they have so many good players that they can run‑off five, six wins in a row. To get off to a good start, be up a couple after nine was huge. Made that birdie on 10, felt like I was in control of myself and swung great from there.”
Matsuyama showed some poise on Thursday and carried Adam Scott for much of their partnership, and continued winning the third hole to strike first. Despite winning four holes, six Mahan birdies gave him the advantage. On the 16th hole, Matsuyama need to win but his tee shot was 40 feet short of the flag and that was the end of the match.
Jason Dufner (USA) defeats Brendon de Jonge (INT) 4 & 3
Following a loss with Zach Johnson in their second match, Captain Fred Couples decided to sit the two of them and from there both answered the call.
De Jonge has been the birdie machine, however it was six birdies from Dufner that won the match. On holes 8 and 10, Dufner stuck the ball inside five feet, but on the 13th hole his approach left him a tap in. De Jonge conceeded the 15th hole after he hit a wayward tee shot that he deemed unplayable.
Graham DeLaet (INT) defeats Jordan Spieth (USA) 1 up
This was the match of the day and neither player led by more than 1 up.
DeLaet finished 21st on the FedEx Cup points list and finished T-2 at Barclays. His play this season has gained a lot of fans including the unofficial tournament host himself.
“Yeah, I got some really kind words from Mr.Nicklaus on the first tee today saying it’s really going to build my confidence, and I think that’s true,” DeLaet said. “Going into the last few events of this year, even into next year, this is an unbelievable tournament. I’m just so happy to be a part of it and to play well is just a bonus.”
The match came down to the 18th hole. DeLaet hit his approach into a green side bunker. Earlier he chipped in from just off the green to halve with Jason Day, but this time the shot went in to secure the victory.
“I executed them both well, but there’s some luck involved, as well,” DeLaet said. “I mean, it’s super exciting to finish like that; to win the match here and then to halve the match this morning, it makes it even better.”
Zach Johnson (USA) defeats Branden Grace (INT) 4 & 2
Johnson had a huge momentum swing when he holed out on the 15th hole to win in a Foursomes match on Saturday. Johnson finished 3-1 on the week.
Grace is one of two Internationals that did not score a single point. Grace was able to birdie just two holes, the ninth and 11th.
“Today was probably as solid as I’ve played all week,” Johnson said. “Fairways, a lot of greens. I don’t know if I missed maybe one green, a lot of opportunities. I made a couple, missed a couple. Just never took the pressure off, which I think is key in match play.
Johnson finished the aforementioned foursomes match just before play was suspended and the extra rest seemed the benefit him.
“I was tired when I woke up, but it’s a tiring week,” Johnson said. “It’s what you expect. All in all, these weeks are just long, and then you compound that with the saturation of the rain, even longer for the grounds crew and volunteers and those here at Muirfield. I felt yesterday was key getting done and resting.”
The match ended on the 16th hole when Grace conceeded the hole.
Adam Scott [INT] defeats Bill Haas [USA] 2 & 1
Scott had something to prove after lagging in the team formats and he admits that he had to step it up.
“I didn’t play good golf yesterday, and it’s not a day you want 34 holes to played ordinary,” Scott said. “We’ve all slogged it out and done our best and so many people have put a lot of work into getting this thing done.”
The match was without a bogey which considering the conditions says a lot.
Haas two putted from 65 feet on the fifth hole to take a one up lead but that would be his only advantage. Scott took three out of the next five holes. Haas stopped the momentum with a holed bunker shot on the par 3 12th hole, however a Scott birdie on the par-5 15th gave him enough of a cushion to take the match.
Ernie Els [INT] defeats Steve Stricker [USA] 1 up
This was another well played match between two accomplished pros. Els has not had many putts drop and if you had asked Stricker a year ago, he would not even have been on this team.
Els led the vast majority of match, although it was Stricker who struck first with a par after Els had a three putt. Els would win holes three, four and six, while Stricker countered with holes eight and nine. The two traded the next four holes and it came down to a big moment to determine who would come out on top.
That big moment came on the 16th hole when Els made a 25 foot putt.
“I was struggling a bit on the greens earlier in the week, and you know, thankfully I played a lot of matches and I started finding my putting touch,” Els said. “We had a good match against Steve today. I knew it was going to be tough. You know, the first four or five matches we knew everybody had to come out and so forth to have half a chance. It was a big match, and both Steve and myself knew that. So we played pretty well.
The two players halved 17 and 18 meaning Els continued the International comeback.
Marc Leishman (INT) defeats Matt Kuchar 1 up
Considering Kuchar’s knowledge of Muirfield Village as well as his win earlier this year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, this may have been the biggest surprise of the day.
Kuchar started out two up, and many expected that the American would run away with the match. That was not the case.
Leishman birdied 8 and then 12 and 13. Not to be outdone, Kuchar won the 14th hole to square the match. Leishman would make a five foot putt on 15 to take the one up lead.
On 18 with some Australian fans there to watch, Leishman hit his third shot into the fringe 13 feet from the hole. His shot would determine whether he would win or go to a playoff since The Presidents Cup had not yet been decided.
“I’ve been wanting that putt for all week,” Leishman said. “Just an opportunity to keep us in it or win it, and to win it ‑‑ to win the match was huge.”
Leishman did make the shot to win the match and keep the International’s slim hopes of a tie alive.
Charl Schwartzel (INT) defeats Keegan Bradley (USA) 2 & 1
This match took a turn in the back nine. Bradley was one up through 12 holes, however Schwartzel would not be denied. Schwartzel remembered last year’s Ryder Cup when the European team completed a big comeback to stun the United States team.
“Yeah, you can see, more blue numbers were getting on and the guys were chipping in on the last to win,” Schwartzel said. “It was a bit of memories of what happened last year at The Ryder Cup.”
Both players had trouble with the change in wind but the South African won the 14th hole with a bogey. With the match all square, Schwartzel took the 15th and 16th holes as well to secure another International flag.
“It was a very tight game the whole way around,” Schwartzel said. “It was going to be tight. I knew I needed my game at least to keep us in with a little bit of a shout. I’m very happy with that finish.”
Tiger Woods (USA) defeats Richard Sterne (INT) 1 up
This was a pretty even match to the surprise of many. Sterne did win the seventh hole to take a one up lead although Woods took the ninth to even the match after the front nine.
Woods had to overcome his back injury in addition to his opponent, however a concession on 12 and a par on 16 after losing the 13th hole gave him a one up lead. On 18, Sterne left his putt to send the match into a playoff six feet short and Woods was able to two putt to get the win while clinching The Presidents Cup.
“It feels good,” Woods said. “It was a team effort this whole week. We really played well, and gave ourselves a really nice lead going into the singles, and it was a tough day, tough conditions, rain, wind. It was tough all around. It was a long week but it was worth it. We did it.”
Webb Simpson (USA) halved with Louis Oosthuizen (INT)
This was a match up of injuries. Simpson had a minor injury he received during the FedEx Cup. Oosthuizen was playing in his second event since mid-July due to neck and back injuries. Oosthuizen played the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and said the back injury was not 100% but could play through it.
Simpson led 16 of the 17 holes of play and had a chance to go three up before missing a short putt. The Presidents Cup was already over as they were hitting their shots on 18 and they decided to concede the match meaning it was a halve.
“It was tough to know what was going on,” Simpson said. “I wasn’t scoreboard watching. I was trying to take care of business. I was hoping it wouldn’t come down to my match but looked like it was going that way for a little while. It was fun to be in this atmosphere and to get the W.”
Angel Cabrera (INT) defeats Phil Mickelson (USA) 1 up
These two players have played in crucial matches before and Mickelson asked to be put towards the end of the matches and captain Couples obliged letting him tee off last. Cabrera also has been banged up and was seen on Saturday grabbing his shoulder and massaging it.
Neither player held more than a one up advantage. From holes 14 through 18, Mickelson had a lot of trouble bogeying four of the holes. Cabrera took the 14th and 17th holes. On 18, Mickelson showed some humor. Knowing he had lost the match and could not halve it after Cabrera lagged his putt to a foot, he had the Argentinian mark his ball. Mickelson made his putt and then flashed a smile to Cabrera picking up his marker and handing it to him knowing the outcome had already been decided.
Now The Presidents Cup is over and although the Internationals won the singles session, the damage was too much to overcome.
“These guys gave their hearts and souls this week,” International captain Nick Price said. “I was there to witness it, and we had a tall order this afternoon, nine and a half points, against a team of the stature and the ability of the American Team was a really tall order.
“We were all a little down in the room this morning after the close, after the finish of the team matches. I can’t tell you the effort these guys made this afternoon. I am proud and honored and I will say it again, and I’ll say it again‑‑ to be the captain of this team.”
My take: This almost did have the feel of an unfair fight. Forget that England and Northern Ireland could not be used, getting seven rookies to gel and play well together on a team is a very tall task. Nick Price did the best he could and there were a couple of match selections here and there that he could have switched, but he was facing a tough American squad. The squad consisted of players that have competed together frequently over the years and did not have to work on teamwork, plus with Fred Couples as captain, things were always laid back.
Couples said that this was his last year as a captain although he would be an assistant captain if asked.
On the American side it was Tiger Woods who was the MVP. As critical as I have been of him at times this year, he hit the big shots when they mattered, battled through an injury and was the most relaxed I have ever seen him. Matt Kuchar brought that side out of him with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air handshake and his calm demeanor. They made a great pair at a time when people were confused why Couples broke up him and Stricker, clearly knowing what he was doing.
The International MVP is Graham DeLaet. He and Jason Day had the best records but Day knew the course left and right. DeLaet has had a great season and perhaps this week gave him the confidence to win out on tour. This could be a breakout year for the Canadian.
As Sterne said following the event, it came down to an old fashioned putting contest and the Americans made more as the final result clearly indicates.
It will be interesting to see what changes the Internationals make for 2015 when The Presidents Cup moves to Incheon, South Korea. Clearly something will have to be done. On the bright side the Internationals are closer than they’ve been in eight years, but still are a ways behind as the American’s depth was just too much.
Previous round results:
Four-Ball – United States 3.5, Internationals 2.5
Match 1 Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International) defeated Hunter Mahan/Brandt Snedeker (U.S.), 1-up
Match 2 Bill Haas/Webb Simpson (U.S.) halved with Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International)
Match 3 Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (Intl.) defeated Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (U.S.), 2 and 1
Match 4 Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) defeated Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International), 1-up
Match 5 Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods (U.S.) defeated Angel Cabrera/Marc Leishman (International), 5 and 4
Match 6 Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner (U.S.) defeated Branden Grace/Richard Sterne (International), 5 and 3
Foursomes – United States 3, Internationals 3
Match 7 Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (U.S.) defeated Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International), 4 and 3
Match 8 Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International) defeated Bill Haas/Hunter Mahan (U.S.), 4 and 3
Match 9 Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) defeated Branden Grace/Richard Sterne (International), 2 and 1
Match 10 Angel Cabrera/Marc Leishman (International) defeated Webb Simpson/Brandt Snedeker (U.S.), 2 and 1
Match 11 Matt Kuchar/Tiger Woods (U.S.) defeated Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (International), 4 and 2
Match 12 Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International) defeated Zach Johnson/Jason Dufner (U.S.), 2 and 1
Four-Ball – United States 4, Internationals 1
Match 13 Keegan Bradley/Phil Mickelson (U.S.) defeated Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International), 2 and 1
Match 14 Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International) defeated Steve Stricker/Jordan Spieth (U.S.), 2 up
Match 15 Bill Haas/Webb Simpson (U.S.) defeated Angel Cabrera/Branden Grace (International) , 4 and 3
Match 16 Brandt Snedeker/Hunter Mahan (U.S.) defeated Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (International), 2 up
Match 17 Tiger Woods/Matt Kuchar (U.S.) defeated Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International), 1 up
Foursomes – United States 3.5, Internationals 1.5
Match 18 Jason Day/Graham DeLaet (International) halved with Keegan Bradley/Phil Mickelson (U.S.)
Match 19 Jason Dufner/Zach Johnson (U.S.) defeated Richard Sterne/Marc Leishman (International), 4 and 3
Match 20 Bill Haas/Steve Stricker (U.S.) defeated Adam Scott/Hideki Matsuyama (International) , 4 and 3
Match 21 Ernie Els/Brendon de Jonge (International) defeated Tiger Woods/Matt Kuchar (U.S.), 1-up
Match 22 Webb Simpson/Brandt Snedeker (U.S.) defeated Louis Oosthuizen/Charl Schwartzel (Intl) 1-up