Oosthuizen and Grace undefeated, but USA retain President’s Cup

International team member Branden Grace of the South Africa, celebrates on the fourteen green during the third day of four-ball matches. Jeon Heon-Kyun, EPA
Branden Grace won all five of his matches – only the fourth player to do so in the history of the tournament.  Jeon Heon-Kyun, EPA

Branden Grace beat Matt Kuchar and Louis Oosthuizen halved with Patrick Reed today which means that – between them – they won 5 and a half out of a possible 6 points. Proudly Garden Route! Together they scored 4 out of 4 in the team matches – Branden another one in the singles and Louis a half a point.

INCHEON CITY, South Korea — The Presidents Cup finally got the drama it desperately needed.

The result, however, remained the same.

Bill Haas, a captain’s pick and son of U.S. captainJay Haas, secured the final point the Americans needed Sunday to win the golden trophy for the ninth time in 11 matches. Haas, playing in the anchor match, was conceded his birdie putt on the final hole by Korean hero Sangmoon Bae for a 2-up victory to cap off a stirring 15½-14½ triumph.

“Before Bill played 17, I said, ‘Come on, Bill, win one for your mom here. Your mom deserves this,’ ” Jay Haas said.

His son did just that. And he won for team, country and captain.

It came down to the final pairing on the final hole on Sunday, but the U.S. Team was able to hold onto the Presidents Cup with their sixth consecutive victory over a competitive International squad. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
It came down to the final pairing on the final hole on Sunday, but the U.S. Team was able to hold onto the Presidents Cup with their sixth consecutive victory over a competitive International squad. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

“That was the hardest position I’ve felt on the golf course in my career, so it feels good to hang on and hit some good shots down the stretch,” said Haas, who added that he realized the Cup’s outcome was “on me” on the 13th tee. “ … It was a goal of mine all year was to make this team. I shouldn’t even be getting emotional, it’s just golf. But to be in that team room with all those guys, it means a lot to me. … I’m lucky to be a part of this team and to get picked, and I’m just happy I could help the team out with one point there on Sunday. It feels great.”

The par-5 18th hole at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korean took center stage as it became home to great escapes, blown opportunities and heroic moments. Haas’ match was the seventh to reach the final hole and was the scene of the last of many crazy things to happen there. Bae, needing to win the hole to halve the match and thus make it a 15-15 tie, chunked his third shot from just short of the green and then pitched far past the hole with his fourth shot. When Haas hit his bunker shot to 5 feet, Bae took his hat off and shook Haas’ hand to end the closest match since the teams tied 17-17 in 2003.

The U.S. has won the last six matches.

“They played phenomenal golf and made us play phenomenal golf,” Jay Haas said. “It was pretty uncomfortable at times today but the guys stepped up and played amazing golf when they had to.”

Strange stuff started happening on the 18th when the Internationals’ Louis Oosthuizen’s eagle earned a half-point against Patrick Reed in the first match of the day. Hideki Matsuyama made birdie on the hole to earn a whole point against J.B. Holmes. Bubba Watson missed a 4-footer for par and went from earning a full point for the U.S. to winning a half-point against Thongchai Jaidee. And American and world No. 1 Jordan Spieth won the first two holes against Marc Leishman and then fell into a tense match that turned in the Australian’s favor when he won the 14th and 15th holes. Leishman pulled off the 1-up win when he canned a 7-footer for birdie on the final hole.

The biggest flip on the 18th, however, came in the Chris Kirk/Anirban Lahiri match. Kirk earned a full point for the U.S. by making a 15-footer for birdie and then watched as Lahiri missed his birdie from 4 feet.

“The nerves I’ve felt this week have been very different than any other golf tournament I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Kirk said. “I was obviously very nervous, but I feel like I had a very clear mind and was able to just step up and hit the putt like I normally would, and I’m very thankful I managed to sneak it in there.”

A familiar face for the Americans was smack in the middle of the familiar outcome. Phil Mickelson, the controversial captain’s pick who has played in every Presidents Cup, arrived at the team hotel for the week wearing red, white and blue pants that looked like wrinkled pajamas and then was nearly perfect on the course. He was magical with short irons in his hands with three hole-outs from around the green and another from a fairway bunker. With his 5-and-4 victory against Charl Schwartzel, Mickelson finished 3-0-1.

“It was an emotional week for me, because I haven’t played my best the past couple years. The last few months, I could feel it starting to turn, and the fact that the guys on the team went to captain (Jay) Haas and wanted me on the team was an emotional thing,” Mickelson said. “ … Jay kind of gave me the freedom to just be me and sometimes I say and do some dumb stuff, and sometimes I can help some guys lighten the tension because we all feel pressure. Even though we have done very well in this event for a number of years, we still feel pressure. We’re representing our country and we’re representing our teammates and we feel responsible when we don’t play our best, we feel accountable to others, not just ourselves.”

Zach Johnson, who teamed with Mickelson, punctuated his undefeated week with a 3-and-2 win against world No. 2 Jason Day, who didn’t win once.

Branden Grace became the fifth player in the Presidents Cup to go 5-0, finishing off his week with a 2-and-1 victory against Matt Kuchar.

Whether it was because of the numerous changes to this year’s Presidents Cup – chief among them a points reduction from 34 to 30 – or this flourishing metropolis embracing the biennial match-play clash by draping skyscrapers and bus stops with “The Time Has Come” signs, or captain Nick Price’s rousing speech Thursday night after his team fell behind 4-1, Sunday was what this event was looking for for some time. The Americans, after all, had won each of the last five matches by at least three points.

Despite the drama this year, the Internationals may push for another reduction in points – from 30 to 28 to be in line with the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup – ahead of the next meeting in 2017 at Liberty National Golf Course in the shadow of the Manhattan Skyline.

“There’s no doubt this team was much more invested in this event than any team I’ve ever been on before, and that’s thanks to Nick Price and the assistant captains kind of getting us together over the past 12 months or so to make some positive changes to this event, which I obviously felt was necessary, as well,” said Adam Scott, who beat Rickie Fowler 6 and 5 to put the first point on the board for the Internationals. “And I think they made the right decisions, and the proof was in the pudding today with how it all panned out.

“As far as the future of the event goes, I think you get a much better answer from one of the first-time guys playing here today, because they are the future of this event. They are the ones who are going to take it forward, but I’m tipping that every one of them is going to be excited to make the 2017 team after getting a taste of this how close this was today.”

USA Today

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