Perhaps it was because of holiday shopping or the disorientation resulting from such a significant time differential, but if you missed the final two days of the Presidents Cup last weekend you missed the latest example of Tiger Woods transcendence in the world of golf.
“We relied on one another as a team, and we did it – together,” Woods said. “This cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it. And we did.”
It all makes you wonder what all the fuss was about whether Woods, the captain, would name Woods, the player, to the United States team. Of course, he would. Why would he not want one of the game’s greatest players, in the midst of a a career renaissance in his 40s, playing on his side?
It turned out to be a prescient move. Not only did Woods play brilliantly , he might have been the difference in the USA’s win by winning all of his matches.
He topped it off on Sunday by trouncing Mexican Abraham Ancer, who never really had a chance. Woods led from the outset and closed out the match on the 16th hole, teaching the rookie from the International team a thing or two – or three – about performance under pressure. Ancer came into his match with the great Woods 3-0-1 in the tournament.
Woods was so under control he didn’t even wait for his clinching 20-foot putt to dip from the lip before striding over to Ancer with his hand extended.
“Well, when it was probably like 6 feet out – the match was over,” Woods said. “I might have taken the hat off a little early, but it was over.”
Woods’ victory was the start of a comeback for the Americans, who finally closed things out with Matt Kuchar’s win over Louis Oosthuizen.
“For us to be in a hole, to come back and win this thing … to win it as a team, but to do it with Tiger Woods as our captain, was just a huge thrill,” Kuchar said.
Then again, you figured the USA would find a way. Only once in the previous dozen events had it lost and that was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. Woods was just 21 years old at the time.
Now Woods is the most successful player in President Cup history with a record of 27-15-1. Just another reason for golf fans to be grateful he’s played in their lifetime. Over the week, he was 3-0, winning in four-ball and foursomes on Thursday and Friday.
It was such a fitting ending for a year highlighted by Woods memorable win at The Masters. He has overcome so many health problems and adjusted his game so deftly to the physically changes they have imposed.
Team USA hasn’t had a playing captain in the Presidents Cup since Hale Irwin in 1994. And by starting the day with his win over Ancer, Woods inspired his teammates to claw back from a two-point deficit on the final day
He specifically chose to play in the first match for two reasons: Ancer had said in an interview that he’d love to play Woods in singles. And two, Woods wanted to spend the remainder of the day charting and responding to his team’s needs.
Woods also helped the team with his diplomacy. You may have heard about the incident on Saturday: Patrick Reed’s caddy, Kessler Karain – Reed’s brother-in-law – got physically involved with a fan who’d been heckling Reed unmercifully in the wake of an incident in the Bahamas that resulted in Reed being assessed a two-stroke penalty.
Before Reed’s singles match on Sunday, Woods interaction with Presidents Cup officials led to extra security around Reed so he could play his match against C.T. Pan in relative peace.
The win was even more special because Ernie Els, the international captain, went to such great lengths to try and avoid it. He made a big deal this year talking about how he had incorporated analytics in his planning and strategy. His team was very young, representing nine countries.
He took some chances, relied on some hunches, leaned on the numbers. But when it came right down to it, the USA had Woods and he didn’t. You think he would have understood that by now.
After taking a 6-1 lead, the Internationals won only eight of the final 23 points, just four of 12 in Sunday’s singles.
“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.”
Make that, the greatest golfer of all time.