MELBOURNE, Australia - Fred Couples was criticized for using one of his two captains picks on a struggling Tiger Woods and for doing so a month before final picks needed to be made. In the end, the U.S. captain had the last laugh and Tiger silenced his critics.
In a battle of captains picks, Woods had six birdies in a near flawless round for a 4 and 3 win over Aussie Aaron Baddeley, clinching the Presidents Cup for the Americans for the second straight time.
“It does feel good,” said Woods of the victory before adding, “I was hoping it wouldn’t come down to my match.”
Woods credited teammate Steve Stricker for helping him rediscover his touch on the greens after struggling throughout the tournament.
"I played well all week," Woods said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make putts. I hit putts well, but they just weren’t going in. Caught a lot of lips the first three days, first four matches.
“Today was a different deal. I, for some reason, felt it and they were pouring right in there.”
It was the fourth successive Cup victory and seventh in the last nine tries with one tie for the United States. By winning at Royal Melbourne, the American's also avenged its only Presidents Cup loss, which came here in 1998 when the International team dominated the event, winning by nine points.
The task for the International side coming into the final day was a daunting one. They needed to win an unprecedented nine matches in order to capture the Cup. That would have matched the largest comeback in any team competition, Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
The first four players International captain Greg Norman sent out all did their part and won their matches - K.T. Kim defeated Webb Simpson 1-up; Charl Schwartzel was a 2 and 1 winner over Dustin Johnson; Ryo Ishikawa dispatched of Bubba Watson 3 and 2; and Geoff Ogilvy was a 2-up winner over Bill Haas. But the home team could not carry the momentum through the rest of its lineup as the bottom half of the draw was all red, white and blue.
Hunter Mahan and Nick Watney momentarily steadied the U.S. ship and after losses by Phil Mickelson, 2 and 1 to Adam Scott, and Matt Kuchar, 1-down to Retief Goosen, the seasoned campaigners took over.
David Toms routed Robert Allenby, 7 and 5, giving the Australian a dubious distinction. He joined John Huston as the only captain's picks to not win a single point.
Jim Furyk, coming off his worst season on the PGA Tour, joined Woods, Shigeki Maruyama and Mark O'Meara as the only players to record a 5-0 record in the Presidents Cup. Furyk made an eagle on the par-5 second and beat President Cup stalward Ernie Els, 4 and 3.
"I felt better about my game than what I've been playing this year, and I kind of want to thank my partners," said Furyk, who won three matches with Phil Mickelson and another with Nick Watney.
Steve Stricker, whose health was in question heading into the week, took the final match of the day, 2 and 1, over Y.E. Yang to make the final score 19-15 in favour of the U.S.
"I knew our guys would settle down," said Couples, who won his second straight Cup over counterpart Norman. "The old stand-bys in the end worked well."
Greg Norman, who stacked his squad with five Australians to try and capitalize on the "home field" advantage, admitted that the team's 3-8 record in foursomes proved to be too much to overcome.
"That’s what really put us behind the 8-ball," Norman said, "and we never really recovered."
The Internationals next chance to wrestle the Cup away from the Americans will come in 2013 when the matches will be stage at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio.
Webb Simpson lost to Kim Kyung-tae (South Korea) 1-up
Dustin Johnson lost to Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) 2&1
Bubba Watson lost to Ryo Ishikawa (Japan) 3&2
Bill Haas lost to Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 2-up
Hunter Mahan beat Jason Day (Australia) 5&3
Nick Watney beat KJ Choi (South Korea) 3&2
Phil Mickelson lost to Adam Scott (Australia) 2&1
Matt Kuchar lost to Retief Goosen (South Africa) 1-up
Jim Furyk beat Ernie Els (South Africa) 4&3
David Toms beat Robert Allenby (Australia) 7&5
Tiger Woods beat Aaron Baddeley (Australia) 4&3
Steve Stricker beat YE Yang (South Korea) 2&1
The United States won the foursomes 4-1
The Internationals won the four-ball matches 3-2
The United States and the Internationals split the four-ball matches 3-3
The United States won the foursomes 4-2
Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report