And so it came to pass that the outcome of the 13th Presidents Cup match was the same as most of its predecessors: the United States were the winners. It was their 11th victory in all, the International Team having won in 1998 and tied in 2003. This one looked like it might be different when the Internationals took a 10-8 advantage into Sunday but they got steamrollered 8-4 in the singles and the USA were home by 16-14.
Contested over the famous Composite Course at Royal Melbourne (it’s absolutely fabulous; I was fortunate enough to play it in a pro-am in 1988), the two teams were respectively captained by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. Woods was the first-ever playing captain in this event, which was inaugurated in 1994. It didn’t do him any harm; he won all three matches he played. On Sunday, as you would expect, he had his team kitted out in red shirts. “We did it together,” he said in victory. “It’s been one of the more amazing challenges but all the guys believed in one another and relied on one another.”
From the first day Woods could point out he was right to give himself a captain’s pick. He made six birdies as he and Justin Thomas beat Marc Leishman by 4&3 in the fourballs, the only point the US earned that day, after which they trailed 4-1. The gap remained three points after Friday’s foursomes but the US had trimmed the deficit to two points after Saturday’s play, a fourballs/foursomes hybrid. Which was when Patrick Reed returned to the fore.
Reed had come into the competition on the back of allegations of cheating at the Hero World Challenge (a tournament hosted by Woods) in the Bahamas the previous week. He was penalised two shots for improving his lie in a waste bunker, albeit Reed insisted that touching the sand with his club during a practice swing had been accidental. “I wasn’t trying to improve a lie,” he said. “If you break the rules unintentionally, it’s not cheating.” On the other hand, one Aussie member of the International team, Cameron Smith, said he had “no sympathy for anyone that cheats”. Who said the Presidents Cup never has the spice of the Ryder Cup?
To be accurate, the transgression on Saturday in Melbourne was not the doing of Reed but of his caddie, Kessler Karain, who is also Reed’s brother-in-law. He shoved a fan during a petty altercation, for which he was chucked out of the event. For Reed that was the third loss from three outings, two of them being in partnership with Webb Simpson against Hideki Matsuyama and C.T. Pan. In Sunday’s singles he was up against Pan for the third time in the week and this time the Taiwanese didn’t get the edge. Reed beat him by 4&2. Had that match gone the other way, the outcome would have been another tie.
“We were right there to the end,” Els lamented, “just a couple of matches didn’t quite go our way.” The same old story.
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