Matt Kuchar’s 5’5” birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole to go 1-up over Louis Oosthuizen clinched the Presidents Cup for the United States; his eventual tie officially providing the winning half point against an International side who looked so good for so long.
The U.S. Team became the first team to come from behind to win the Cup after trailing heading into the Sunday Singles after the International Team had entered the final round with a 10-8 lead.
“I had a hard time getting going,” Kuchar said of his crucial match. “Trying to get things going this morning was a bit of a challenge.”
Indeed, Oosthuizen won the first three holes with two birdies and a par. Kuchar did win the fifth hole with a birdie but lost the next one. He was 3 down at the turn – and given the closeness of the competition, the entire outcome may have been turning on his match.
“I dug myself a hole early, 3-down,” Kuchar said. “I’ve played enough match play, played enough golf, that if you keep plugging along, I knew some good things was happening.”
The good things finally arrived on the back nine with Kuchar picking up birdies at 10 and 11 to reduce the deficit to one.
Oosthuizen won the next hole but Kuchar won the par-3 14th when his tee shot finished inside 9 feet for another birdie. At the par-5 15th, Kuchar birdied from 7 feet while Oosthuizen parred. The match was now tied.
Kuchar had a chance to take the lead at the 16th but missed his 7-foot birdie putt. So he arrived at the 17th knowing that if he won the hole, he would be guaranteed a half-point. With the Americans leading 15-13 at the time, it would be the clinching half-point to retain the Presidents Cup.
Kuchar stuck his approach to 5-1/2 feet, then watched Oosthuizen miss his 16-1/2 footer for birdie. Kuchar followed by rolling in his putt … and setting off an American celebration. Oosthuizen won the 18th for the half-point but it didn’t matter. Kuchar had done what he needed to do, a rally to win the Presidents Cup.
Oosthuizen, sadly, was feeling the opposite.
“I’m gutted,” he said. “I made one mistake, one mistake on 16 with a tee shot, and that was it. The rest was pretty clutch golf, but there was lots of birdies between the two of us. It was a good match.”
The half-point justified the faith Woods had put in Kuchar and Rickie Fowler (in the 12th match) to deliver the goods if the competition came down to the last two matches.
“To make that putt and to have everybody there on 17 – I don’t know how to explain the emotions,” Kuchar said. “I was just leaping out of my skin with joy. To do that was such a thrill and something I’m hugely proud of.”
At 3-0-0, playing-captain Woods went undefeated in the Presidents Cup for the second time (5-0; 2009). Normal service had resumed for the one they call GOAT as the Americans claimed the Presidents Cup, 16-14.
“It’s the same feeling,” Woods said. “We won.”
Justin Thomas, who partnered with Woods to win two matches earlier in the week, summed up the role of his captain when he said:
“Someone who has done as much as he has and had as much experiences as he had in all these team events, he very easily, I felt, could have tried to take over the team rooms or try to give all this advice and try to do so much.”
But, as Thomas added, “we have 12 of the best players in the world. No offense, he just needed to get out of the way – and that’s what he did.”
Full scoring HERE