Americans all smiles after Presidents Cup win
MELBOURNE, Australia — Looking happier than he has all year, Tiger Woods slipped into the gallery for high fives and back slaps while wearing a green cap that he borrowed from the "Fanatics," the famous cheer squad that shows up at Australia's biggest sporting events.
Jim Furyk soon joined him, a green-and-yellow Aussie jersey slipped over his red golf shirt.
The Americans sure seem to have a lot of fun at the Presidents Cup, perhaps because they always win.
2011 Presidents Cup: Day 4 in pictures
A look at singles action on Sunday at Royal Melbourne.
They were at their best Sunday at Royal Melbourne, from Furyk becoming the fourth player in the Presidents Cup with a perfect mark to Woods delivering the winning point in these matches for the second straight time.
Woods blasted out of a deep bunker to 2 feet on the par-5 15th for the sixth birdie of his singles match, this one closing out Aaron Baddeley and giving the United States a 19-15 victory over the International team.
The Americans won for the fourth straight time in the Presidents Cup, running their overall record to 7-1-1.
They have won the Ryder Cup only once in the last 10 years.
"We've had a lot more success, I have found, when we end up playing loose," said Phil Mickelson, the voice of experience from having played in eight Ryder Cups and nine Presidents Cups. "When we end up having fun off the golf course, we end up having fun on the course. We end up playing better, and we have had better results."
They might attribute that to their captain, Fred Couples, who guided the United States to another lopsided when and raised questions anew whether the PGA of America erred in not picking him to be a Ryder Cup captain.
"I've been on a variety of different teams over the years, and this has been just a great atmosphere to be around," Woods said. "And it starts from the captain. Would Freddie make a great Ryder Cup captain? Absolutely. He's just a great captain, period. He's fun to play for. I'm thankful that he picked me."
This win was efficient as the last three, with the United States taking the lead in the foursomes matches at the start of the tournament and never letting the International team get too close.
Furyk, coming off his worst PGA Tour season since he was a rookie in 1994, was the unlikely star. He teamed with Mickelson to win three matches, won another match with Nick Watney at his side, then manhandled Ernie Els in singles, 4 and 3. That gave him a 5-0 mark, joining Woods, Shigeki Maruyama and Mark O'Meara as the only players to do that in the Presidents Cup.
Hunter Mahan, in tears after the Ryder Cup defeat in Wales last year, grinned broadly after he made one last birdie to polish off Jason Day in what proved to be a critical match on the final day.
Mickelson lost his first three holes — he conceded four out of his first eight — and never caught up in a loss to Adam Scott. Even so, Lefty emerged as the all-time points earner in this competition.
From the pre-tournament hype to the closing ceremony, so much of the Presidents Cup centered around Woods.
He had fallen out of the top 50 in the world, never came close to earning a spot on the team and had gone two years without winning when Couples said a month before qualifying ended that he was picking Woods because he was "the best player in the world forever."
Couples was criticized in some corners for taking Woods, especially since PGA champion Keegan Bradley was left off the team. Even the International captain, Greg Norman, said he would have taken Bradley over Woods.
"Greg is probably not happy about it after I closed out the cup today," Woods said in a restrained dig.
Woods, for the first time all year, responded with his clubs.
Even though he won only two points, he played solidly all week at Royal Melbourne. Left on his own in Sunday singles, he recorded six birdies, the most of anyone on another windy, challenging day on this course that lived up to its reputation as one of the world's best.
The putts that didn't fall suddenly couldn't miss. Couples was busy racing around the course in his golf cart and didn't see much of the match, though he heard that Woods looked like "the Tiger of old."
Maybe not, but he's sure getting there.
"A lot of people have asked why I picked him and how he was going to play," Couples said. "Certainly I couldn't answer how he was going to play, but this week I think he showed to himself that his swing is back and he's healthy. And that's more important to me. Obviously, we want to win the cup. But it's more important for me to have people realize that he can play the game."
Norman said he still would have taken Bradley as a major champion, though he acknowledged that Woods delivered.
"He stepped up to the plate. He putted extremely well," Norman said. "Any player hates to see another great player struggle, because we all know what it's like to go through the ins and outs of the game. At the end of the day, you want to see the player who has dominated the game come back."
Norman, with his team trailing 13-9, tried to pick up points early. The International team won the first four matches behind K.T. Kim, Charl Schwartzel, Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy. It wasn't enough, though, as Couples put his veterans — Furyk, David Toms, Woods and Steve Stricker — at the back of the lineup, and all led comfortably throughout the day.
Norman could only watch as Woods' hit his bunker shot that secured the match, and the final point, before congratulating Couples. It's getting to be quite a familiar image in an event that began in 1994 and has had a distinctive Stars & Stripes look to it.
"It would be fun to win one of these things," Ogilvy said. "It's the best time of the year until you realize you're not going to win."