Captain Tiger Woods and his two most beleaguered players set the tone for an historic comeback to win the 13th Presidents Cup on Sunday.
With his team trailing 10-8 entering Sunday’s singles play at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Woods needed his United States team to win at least eight of the 12 matches to win the Cup for the eight consecutive time.
They did better than that, winning six of the first nine matches on the course and halving two others before Matt Kuchar sank the Cup-clinching putt. That came on the 17th hole of his match against South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen — fittingly in a match Kuchar trailed by three strokes making the turn.
Despite owning a 10-1-1 advantage all-time in the event entering this week, the U.S. had not won a singles session since 2009. They needed 7½ singles points to win the Cup on Sunday, a feat they had accomplished only four times previously.
Woods, who selected himself as a playing captain, acknowledged later that he sent himself out first to send a message. Playing against International rookie Abraham Ancer, Woods went out with a 3-up win to set the tone for the day.
In the process, Woods went 3-0 for the week and earned his 27th career Presidents Cup win, breaking a tie with Phil Mickelson for the most all-time.
Patrick Reed put his team in the lead with a decisive 4&2 win over Taiwan’s C.T. Pan. Coming off a controversial week at the Hero World Challenge where he received a two-stroke penalty for a rules violation, Reed had swing coach Kevin Kirk on his bag after caddie Kessler Karain was involved in an altercation with a fan on Saturday.
Winless in three matches for the week while paired with Webb Simpson, and winless in his previous four Presidents Cup matches overall, Reed built a 6-up lead on the front nine and withstood Pan’s comeback attempt.
Kuchar, who was down three holes at the turn, drained a birdie putt on the 17th hole to claim his first lead of the day. Most important, it clinched the U.S. victory.
Kuchar summered in New Hampshire as a kid and his grandfather starred in football at Manchester Central and UNH.
“We did it together,” said Woods, holding back tears. “We came here as a team ... my teammates and my boys all played well. And my captains did an amazing job of just being there for every little detail. I couldn’t have done it without all of their help. And my boys ... they did it!”
The U.S. didn’t lead after a single session until Sunday, and became the first Presidents Cup side to come from behind after trailing entering the singles matches.