The US and A win 16-14 @ Royal Melbourne
Another gripping edition of yet another sporting tournament I have no major understanding of, and thanks to the presence of Tiger Woods as a drawcard, the International team consisting of 7 rookies putting up a sustained fight, and the ever-present sledging of Patrick Reed (Reminiscent of the Barmy Army hammering David Warner and Steve Smith), which apparently did more mental damage to his caddy Kessler Karain, I can honestly say this was a worthwhile edition of the only team tournament the Americans can actually win.
We saw another piece of tournament history at Royal Melbourne – Back in 1998, the late Peter Thompson captained the Internationals (Featuring the likes of captain Ernie Els and Greg Norman, against Tiger on his tournament debut) to what remains their only outright victory, while this time around, they became the first team to lose the Presidents Cup despite leading heading in to the Sunday singles.
After witnessing the events of today, I wasn’t sure if it was The Big Easy or The Shark captaining the Internationals, given the way quite a few of them fell flat down the back nine.
Still, we should remember that the Internationals started like a house on fire through the opening 3 sessions, winning 4/5 matches in the Thursday fourball, splitting the Friday Foursomes 2.5 apiece, with Rickie Fowler & Gary Woodland saving the Americans by coming from 2 holes down with 3 to play, to halve the match against Cam Smith and Sung-jae Im.
Through Thursday and Friday, Tiger won both his matches with Justin Thomas, while Reed’s weekend was going swimmingly, losing both matches with Webb Simpson.
After the hosts looked very good again in the Saturday morning Four-Ball (Abraham Ancer pulled this off) I’d argue the real turning point for the Americans was the final hole of the Byeong-hun An/Adam Scott vs Tony Finau/Matt Kuchar match, in which the International pair led by 1 hole with with the 18th to come, looking set to increase the team’s lead to 9.5-4.5.
But, Finau, after saving the match with a birdie on the 17th, came to the rescue again with another birdie on the Par 4 final hole, to salvage that crucial half-point to keep the deficit to 4 points.
After celebrating with everything short of a dry root, the belief in Tiger’s Americans manifested when they pegged back another 2 points in the Saturday Afternoon foursomes to close the gap to 10-8, which could so easily have been tied, when you remember that the US had leads in all 4 matches, only for Kuchar & Finau to be held to a tie by An & Joaquin Niemann, while Fowler & Justin Thomas were 5 holes up on Marc Leishman & Ancer with 8 to play, only for The Leish to be unleashed in a monster comeback to halve the match, capped off by that ripping approach shot on the 18th that led to the US having to concede.
The Seppos were asking questions, and the Internationals at that stage had the Ancers.
After sitting out Saturday and backing in his players to close the gap, Woods pulled on the red shirt and made the alpha move of picking himself for the opening Sunday singles match against the rookie Ancer, and the Big Cat promptly left the Mexican in a bloody, lifeless mess down the back nine with a 3&2 victory.
Tiger finishing the weekend with a perfect 3-0-0 record, which moved him past Phil Mickelson to an outright record 27 Presidents Cup victories.
Seeing their fearsome leader demolish his prey gave the Yanks another spurt of momentum – Dustin Johnson finished off Li Haotong 4&3 to make it 10 points apiece, and Reed figured out the best way to silence a drunk Australian crowd is to play well, going 6 up on CT Han within 7 holes (All without improving his lie), then survived a fightback to win 4&2, and the US had the lead for the first time since Thursday morning.
I’d say after those results rolled in, the common line of thought was “Yep, the US will win as expected”, But that said, the Internationals definitely had their chances to snatch at least a share of the title, with the scores tied at 11.5 apiece after Im defeated Woodland 4&3.
Example 1 – Joaquin Niemann was 1 up on Patrick Cantlay after 10 holes, only to suffer a major case of shrinkage George Costanza would sympathise with, to lose 3&2.
Example 2 – Hideki Matsuyama was 4 up on Tony Finau after 10 holes, but ended up committing Seppuku in a brutal final 8 holes, and ended up halving the match (It would have tied the scores at 11 apiece after 4 singles matches)
Example 3 – Louis Oosthuizen was 3 up after 9 holes against Matt Kuchar in the 11th match, only for King Louis to bumble along down the back 9, and eventually Kuch’s birdie putt on the 17th ensured the Americans would at least halve the match (Which they did), securing the Cup.
Leishman also had a 2 shot lead early into the 12th and final match against Fowler, but he too would have to settle for a tie, by which point in time, the Cup had been decided.
Still, Ernie and the boys did have a very lonely highlight- Cameron Smith, on his Presidents Cup debut, came from behind to defeat the previously undefeated Justin Thomas 2&1.
As previously mentioned, the big sideshow of the tournament was the aforementioned sledging and booing and burning of effigies of Reed, which led to his caddy Kessler Karain being stood down for throwing hands with some dude in the gallery, which also led to Tiger making his comments about simply asking for the crowd to be respectful instead of drunk heckling, which the Big Easy did agree with, but said that players had to shut up and get on with it, pointing out that the Melbourne crowd was quiet compared to the peanut galleries in New York for the last Presidents Cup, which was actually in Jersey City…. But apparently they’re both so full of crap that you can’t tell the difference.
Still, on the ‘International Shit Sporting Crowd’ Scale, which scales from ‘Clueless Wimbledon Crowd’ to ‘European football crowds performing monkey chants’, this Melbourne crowd would have been lucky to crack a 3.
Looking at the uncreative abuse Reed copped all week, I’m reminded of something Harold Larwood said in 1933, when reflecting on the Bodyline tour, aka, the birth of modern Australian sledging.
“A cricket tour in Australia would be the most delightful period in your life. . . if you were deaf.”
The words of a man who later emigrated to Australia in 1950, and spent the remaining 45 years of his life receiving the odd case of hate mail here and there.
So, the Americans once again retain the Presidents Cup as expected, but goodness me, it was a ride getting there.