It was supposed to be a complete mismatch. That’s what the Presidents Cup had traditionally given us when pitting the United States against the Internationals. And though the result, a 16–14 victory for the Americans, is one the golf world has grown accustomed to, this year just felt different.
The U.S. team led by Tiger Woods, mounted a furious comeback on the final day in Melbourne, Australia. No team had every come back to win the Cup after trailing to start singles matches, but faced with that fact, and 12 head-to-head matchups awaiting them, the Americans went to work.
Storming out of the gates first, Tiger Woods batted leadoff for the U.S and quickly set the tone. A highly motivated Patrick Reed sent a message by reeling off four straight birdies to begin his day, and the Americans were off and running as they didn’t just chip away at the Internationals’ lead, but they devoured it.
It was a comeback that at times looked unlikely, and at others was expected. The result was the 12th American win in 13 Presidents Cups.
Results: USA 16, International 14
Tiger Woods 3&2 over Abraham Ancer
Hideki Matsuyama tied Tony Finau
Patrick Reed 4&2 over C.T. Pan
Dustin Johnson 4&3 over Haotong Li
Adam Hadwin tied Bryson DeChambeau
Sungjae Im 4&3 over Gary Woodland
Patrick Cantlay 3&2 over Joaquin Niemann
Xander Schauffele 2&1 over Adam Scott
Webb Simpson 2&1 over Byeong Hun An
Cameron Smith 2&1 over Justin Thomas
Louis Oosthuizen tied Matt Kuchar
Marc Leishman tied Rickie Fowler
Here are 18 parting thoughts from the 2019 Presidents Cup:
1. Regardless of which Team won the matches, the overall winner this week was the Presidents Cup as a whole. The biennial matches, now in its 13th edition, were in major need rejuvenation. This week in Melbourne provided the jolt the Cup desperately longed for.
The historically lopsided nature of the matches has been well-publicized with the U.S. holding a 10-1-1 record heading into the week, and the last decade of the Cup had been flat. Six of the last seven prior to Royal Melbourne had been decided by three points or more, with 2017 at Liberty National (19–11 USA) the most lopsided since 2000.
This week is exactly what the Cup needed in order to move forward and generate excitement in future matches. It was highly competitive, refreshingly chippy and a perfect display of the beauty of match play.
With both teams loaded with young talent, the Presidents Cup finally feels like it means something.
2. At 43 years old, let’s face it, we really didn’t know what to expect from Tiger Woods this week. Faced with being the first playing captain Hale Irwin in 1994, Tiger showed us all he continues to evolve.
Old Tiger would not have been able to pull off this feat. His single-minded practice and preparation, which made him great, would have been too consuming to allow him to worry about 11 other players. But this latest version of Woods handled things brilliantly.
3. First off, Tiger the Captain, who despite struggling to find the right mix early in the matches with his pairings, stuck to the game plan he kept telling everyone he had. His confidence in Reed and Webb Simpson, who went winless in team matches, was puzzling, but may have given the two players the confidence to keep grinding. And grind they did, as Reed and Simpson earned two crucial points in Sunday’s singles competition. If Woods had benched both players earlier, would their confidence have been shaken heading into Sunday?
4. Then there was the decision by Tiger the captain to bench Tiger the player Saturday. Woods was questioned and criticized for sitting out the two sessions after winning both of his matches Thursday and Friday.
Tiger replied to the criticism by saying he had full trust in his team. While true, Tiger also knows himself and his body better than anyone, which likely played a huge factor in the decision. A full day of rest translated into a dominant performance on Sunday.
5. While we’re on the topic of domination, how about Tiger Woods the player? Woods was not just good, he was phenomenal. First it was the convincing wins alongside buddy Justin Thomas. Then it was the commanding victory over the red-hot Abraham Ancer in singles play.
A perfect 3–0 for the week.
Tiger’s win in his singles match Sunday put him atop the all-time list for Presidents Cup wins with 27, surpassing Phil Mickelson.
6. So, what does it all mean? Coming off a year in which Woods won his 15th major at the Masters, his record-tying 82 victory at the ZoZo Championship and won the Presidents Cup as a playing captain, the Tiger excitement meter for 2020 is going to be off the charts.
7. If you’ve followed Reed at all over the years, Sunday’s complete thrashing of C.T. Pan in singles play should come as no surprise. Reed is a lone wolf. He often practices and plays alone on Tour and finds motivation for his world-class play from depths unknown.
One would think the week in Australia, overall, is one Reed would like to forget. The harassment from fans about his rules controversy in the Bahamas was endless and his play was uninspiring (0–3 in team matches). But a day after seeing his caddy and brother-in-law get into an altercation with a fan and be removed from competition, Reed produced his strongest play of the tournament, birdieing six of his first seven holes en route to a 7 birdie, 4&2 disposal of Pan.
After the match, Reed admitted that the last few days were tough on him, but he wasn’t going to let it get in the way of his golf. Love him or hate him, this is exactly what Tiger knew about Reed when he selected him as a captains pick and is a precise reason, he wanted him on this team, especially for the matches abroad.
8. Ernie Els is the perfect captain for the International squad. A respected force who seemed to connect with the International players from the start.
From the changing of the team logo to a shield, to the use of a stats and an analytics company to help form his pairings, Els pushed a ton of right buttons.
Just by looking at the Big Easy’s face throughout the week, you can tell the Cup sincerely means something to him. If the powers that be are smart, they’ll immediately name Els the International Team Captain for 2021 in Charlotte.
9. What many thought was an Achilles heel for the International squad in 2019 will quickly turn into the team’s strength. With seven rookies on the International team, youth and inexperience was supposed to doom it, but that turned out to not be true. Led by guys like Sungjae Im and Ancer, the rookies showed they belonged time after time and with an average age of 25 between them, the group has shown the world that the future is extremely bright for this team
10. Speaking of Abe Ancer, get used to hearing that name in 2020. The 28-year-old Mexican was a shining star for the International team. The former Oklahoma Sooner played in all five sessions and was an impressive 3-1-1, with his lone loss coming against Tiger Woods in singles competition.
Ancer has risen quickly through the Official World Golf Rankings for three years now, currently ranking 38th. He has the unique ability to go low…extremely low, on any given day, and his putting prowess that was on display all week in Australia has caught the attention of the golfing world.
Ancer finished second at the Northern Trust this past season and reeled off an additional four top-10 finishes throughout the year. It’s only a matter of time that Abe breaks through with a victory. Look for that to happen in this coming season.
11. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Australia, but when I eventually do, a trip to Royal Melbourne will be in order.
During the weeks leading up to the Presidents Cup, I read and heard many golf nuts, writers and nerds (often all the same) gush about the pride of the Australian Sandbelt. Even though Royal Melbourne was the site of the Presidents Cup in 2011, the game has changed a ton over the last eight years, which had me skeptical as to how the course would translate to the modern game in international competition.
Quite simply, I was wrong. The style of play and the precise execution the golf course required was perfect for the format.
Visually the golf course was a breathtaking dream for golf purists with its sandy soil, firm fast greens and extreme runoffs. It’s where golf course design was back in the 1890s and is reversing with modern-day golf course restoration.
12. Speaking of the golf course, it was clear that Royal Melbourne provided the International team with a home-field advantage, likely worth a few points. Els and his assistants supplied the players with a game plan crafted for the golf course, while the U.S. seemed to be feeling its way around the grounds throughout the week.
Having most of the International players tee it up in Australia the week prior to the matches was another well-executed plan by Els.
13. It makes you wonder, what course would provide the U.S. with a home-field advantage. Is there a golf course, setup or style of play that favors this group of Americans?
The next four international team competitions in the U.S. (Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup) will be contested at Whistling Straits, Quail Hollow, Bethpage Black and TPC Harding Park. All completely different courses.
14. By the time the matches head to Charlotte in 2021, the American roster could have a few new faces. If he doesn't qualify on points, would a captain give Reed another chance with a wild card pick? Matt Kuchar will be 43 years old ... has he played on his final Presidents Cup team? With young studs like Matthew Wolff, Colin Morikawa and Cameron Champ waiting in the wings, the next generation of American player could be ready to join the team. Oh ... and World No. 1 Brooks Koepka will most certainly be back.
15. A large part of what helped the Presidents Cup have a rejuvenated feel were the Australian crowds. They were boisterous, loud, clever and controversial. Exactly what you see at team sporting events around the world on a daily basis.
From a traditional golf standpoint, I was a bit surprised, as the Aussie fans consistently cheered poor shots by the Americans, boldly rooting for negative results for them. But hey, this is a team competition fueled by passionate patriotism. I’m all for it.
Let’s just remember this, when the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup visit the United States over the next two years. The bashing of American fans by Europeans and international golf fans needs to cease.
16. Now to the important stuff, like the team uniforms. The United States nailed it, and the Internationals wore four-days’ worth of outfits that should be on the clearance rack at Golf Galaxy.
Lacoste was the official apparel provider for the matches for a second consecutive Cup and the blending of the Red, White and Blue, which is not always easy to do, was perfectly executed.
You’d think Tiger had something to do with the heavy presence of Red throughout the week, which popped above and beyond the Internationals combination of black, green and gold.
17. Celebrations during match play can make certain golfers look like jacked-up athletes and others look like awkward country club kids. That is all.
18. After four consecutive nights of evening golf viewing here on the East Coast, there’s only one conclusion to come to: prime-time golf rules. To be able to watch golf at night instead of another episode of Below Deck or Real Housewives of New Jersey was a pleasure.
The U.S. Open at Pebble Beach gave us a great taste of prime-time viewing this past June and will head back to the West Coast for two of the next four Opens (2021 Torrey Pines, 2023 LACC).
And let’s not forget, the PGA Tour will kick off 2020 with its annual two-week island-hopping pilgrimage to Hawaii with the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. More golf in prime time…yes please!