Tiger Woods caps comeback year by leading emotional team win

Tiger Woods caps comeback year by leading emotional team win

MELBOURNE, Australia — The emotions poured out of Tiger Woods, just like they did at Augusta National in the spring, except this felt different.

The Masters was for him.

This was for 11 players — at times his teammates, always under his captaincy — who delivered another American victory in the Presidents Cup and a moment that nearly brought Woods to tears. And when the decisive point was on the board Sunday at Royal Melbourne, Woods celebrated with everyone he could find by hugging them hard enough to take the breath out of them.

“Any time you have moments where you’re able to do something that is bigger than us as an individual, it’s so much more meaningful and so much more special,” he said.

The Americans felt the same way.

Trailing for the first time in 16 years, they followed his lead. Woods, the first playing captain in 25 years, went out in the first of 12 singles matches and outlasted Abraham Ancer to set the Presidents Cup record by winning his 27th match.

It also set the tone for his team.

Patrick Reed, winless in three matches and heckled so badly for his rules violation last week in the Bahamas that his caddie shoved a spectator and was kept from working the final day, was 6 up through seven holes. Dustin Johnson, playing for the first time since the Tour Championship because of knee surgery, was 4 up through seven holes.

Perhaps most inspiring was Tony Finau in the second match. He was 4 down to Hideki Matsuyama through 10 holes when Finau won the next four and earned a half-point that put even more pressure on the International team.

Matt Kuchar delivered the winning point without even winning his match. His 5-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole assured the Americans the half-point they needed to win for the eighth straight time.

The last two matches ended in halves for a 16-14 score. The Americans tied a Presidents Cup record with an 8-4 margin in singles, the largest since the first event in 1994.

“It was really cool being part of this team and having Tiger as captain,” Kuchar said. “We had a roomful of some of the greatest golfers in the world, and when he speaks, we listen. I think all of us will look back and have these pictures hanging on our walls and say, ‘We played for and alongside Tiger Woods, the greatest player ever.’ It was awesome.”

It was crushing for the Internationals, hoping to end two decades without a victory.

Ernie Els, who has finished second to Woods more times than anyone in golf, assembled the youngest International team ever and inspired them with equal doses of purpose and analytics. It had the lead going into Sunday for the first time since 2003, the tie in South Africa.

It just didn’t have enough to cross the line.

“I followed a plan, and it didn’t quite work out, but we came damn close,” Els said. “If you compare our team on paper with other teams in other sport, you would have laughed us out of the building. But we gave it a hell of a go and we came mightily close to winning and upsetting one of the greatest golf teams of all time.”

That team included the greatest player of his generation. Woods was appointed captain in March 2018 and suggested he might be a playing captain, which he later said was a joke.

And then he won the Masters, his 15th major and first in 11 years, to cap off a comeback from injury made even more meaningful by the hugs he shared with family and those who never left his side.

Two weeks before he filled out his team with four captain’s picks, Woods won in Japan for his 82nd career victory, leaving him no choice but to be the first captain to pick himself.

He was the only player to go undefeated at Royal Melbourne, winning twice with Justin Thomas and on his own ball against Ancer, one of seven rookies for the Internationals.

“We were very inspired to play for Tiger — with Tiger — and it’s so satisfying to win this cup because of that,” Finau said.

Emotions were raw on the golf course as the Americans celebrated their first comeback since the four-point deficit at Brookline in the 1999 Ryder Cup.

In his TV interview, Woods was fighting back tears, yet another indication to his players how much it meant.

“I love seeing other people cry, especially Tiger Woods,” said Steve Stricker, one of three vice captains who allowed Woods to hold dual roles at Royal Melbourne. And then Stricker had to hold back tears of his own.

The International team at least kept it close, unlike two years ago at Liberty National when it was one putt away from being eliminated on Saturday.

Even with so much American red on the scoreboards, the Internationals still had a chance in the final hour. Matsuyama lost a 1-up lead with a three-putt from 25 feet that led to the halve with Finau. Adam Hadwin had a 15-foot birdie putt to beat Bryson DeChambeau on the 18th hole, but had to settle for a halve when he missed on the high side.

Louis Oosthuizen lost a 3-up lead at the turn against Kuchar, who caught up on the 15th hole and set off the celebration two holes later. Their matched ended in a halve.

At the closing ceremony, the Internationals stood with their arms crossed. The frustration was evident, even among the seven rookies.

The Americans now lead the series 11-1-1, the only International victory coming at Royal Melbourne in 1998.

“I’m disappointed. That’s all I can say,” said Adam Scott, who has played nine straight Presidents Cups without winning. “But I like what’s happening in the future. I can’t wait for another crack at it.”

The Internationals likely will want Els to return as captain. As for Woods?

“We are going to have those conversations in the future, but not right now,” Woods said. “We are going to enjoy this one.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Tiger Woods caps comeback year by leading emotional team win

Just Posted

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

Dustin Mitchell (Coats) is wanted by police in relation to a homicide this past Wednesday. (Photo contributed by Red Deer RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for man in relation to homicide

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Red Deer man in… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

The courthouse in Iqaluit is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. Three Nunavut judges, including the chief justice, are at odds over whether prison conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered when sentencing offenders in the territory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut judges disagree on how to sentence offenders during pandemic

IQALUIT — Three Nunavut judges, including the territory’s chief justice, are at… Continue reading

A corrections officer opens the door to a cell in the segregation unit at the federal Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Independent reviews of the hundreds of inmates placed in segregation over the past year found only a handful were inappropriate, new government data indicate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Few federal inmates moved from solitary after external reviews, new data show

‘There can be rare cases where the removal may not be immediate’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Most Read