SPORTS

U.S. wins ninth Presidents Cup in S. Korea

By 송상호
  • Published : Oct 11, 2015 - 22:28
  • Updated : Oct 11, 2015 - 22:28
The United States won the Presidents Cup for the ninth time Sunday, defeating the International Team 15 1/2 to 14 1/2 after a nail-biting finish on a chilly afternoon by the Yellow Sea.

The Americans grabbed six points out of 12 matches at the par-72, 7,380-yard Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, just west of Seoul, with five victories and two halves. This was the first Presidents Cup held in Asia.

The United States has now won the biennial match play competition nine out of 11 times, with a tie in 2003.

This was the closest victory for the Americans since they won 16 1/2 to 15 1/2 in 1996. Prior to this year, the Americans had won the last five Cups by 95-75, with a victory margin of at least three points each time.

The U.S. began the day leading 9 1/2 to 8 1/2. With 30 matches in total, the team that reached 15 1/2 points first would win the Presidents Cup. The Americans got to the number in the anchor match, as Bill Haas, son of the U.S. captain Jay Haas, edged out South Korean Bae Sang-moon 2-up for the final point.

No team trailing prior to the singles has come back to win the Presidents Cup.

Australian Adam Scott pounded Rickie Fowler 6 & 5 to put the first point on the board for the International Team, but the United States quickly picked up 1 1/2 points, as Dustin Johnson defeated Danny Lee 2 & 1 and Patrick Reed halved his match with Louis Oosthuizen.

With the first three matches concluded, the United States held an 11-10 lead and was ahead in six of the nine remaining contests.

Phil Mickelson, seventh to tee off Sunday, made quick work of Charl Schwartzel of South Africa 5 & 4 to put the Americans up 12-10.

Then things got more interesting, with the International players turning up the heat. Hideki Matsuyama of Japan found himself 2-down through 11 against J.B. Holmes, but birdied the 12th and the 14th to go all square. Matsuyama then took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the 16th.

Holmes responded with a birdie on the 17th, but Matsuyama closed him out with a birdie on the par-5 18th, making it 12-11 for the United States.

In a stunning turn of events in the next pairing, Bubba Watson for the United States missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 18th that would have beat Thongchai Jaidee. The two players instead halved their match, as the Americans held on to a slim 12 1/2 to 11 1/2 lead.

For the Internationals, Steven Bowditch hung on to beat Jimmy Walker 2-up, tying the score at 12 1/2 apiece.

More drama ensued at the 18th, as Anirban Lahiri of India missed a three-foot birdie putt that would have halved the match against Chris Kirk, who'd earlier drained a 15-footer for birdie.

The gift-wrapped 1-up victory put the Americans ahead 14 1/2 to 12 1/2 Marc Leishman of Australia then upset world No. 1 Jordan Spieth 1-up, rallying from 2-down after two holes, and his victory cut the deficit to 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 with two matches remaining.

In the penultimate match Branden Grace of South Africa built a 5-up lead on Matt Kuchar at the turn and held on for a 2 & 1 victory that evened the score at 14 1/2 apiece, capping off a perfect 5-0-0 week.

It set the stage for the late drama in the anchor match between Bill Haas and Bae. With the partisan crowd behind him, Bae made a key par to stay 1-down on the 16th. Bae got into the bunker off the tee at the par-3 17th but punched out to a foot of the hole and extended the match to the finishing hole.

At that point, the best Bae could do was to halve the match against Haas and secure a tie for the International Team at 15-15.

Bae hit a good drive to the center of the fairway but came up well short of the green with his second shot. He then chunked his chip for the final blow to the International Team, and watched in agony as the ball hit the top of the hill just shy of the green and rolled back toward him.

Bae needed another shot to reach the short grass, and later conceded the hole and the match to Haas.

This was likely Bae's last competition before he begins his mandatory military service.

The victorious captain Jay Haas became visibly emotional after the victory, with his son securing the final point on the 18th green.

"I'm so happy for the team," the senior Haas said, choking back on tears. "We were riding back down the fairway on 18 before Bill played 17, and I said, 'Come on, Bill, win one for your mom here.

Your mom deserves this.' Just proud of all of them. Couldn't even have dreamt this."

In the light of the close loss, the International captain Nick Price said the Presidents Cup needed exactly what his players provided here: a closely-fought contest that came down to the wire.

"I just had a feeling it was going to come down to one of the last two games," he said. "And I'm just so proud of that team. I can't tell you what it's like to bring eight countries together, eight individuals, speak six different languages, different cultures, and we all came here for the good of the game to play golf."

Price noted that an exciting Presidents Cup should go a long way toward growing golf globally.

"So it was a nail-biter and that's what this has to be," he said. "It has to create an energy and an interest; not only in the U.S., but globally. We're going to have Chinese players on this team. We are going to have South Americans. We're going to have a lot of players from all around the world, and we want those people to watch and enjoy the Presidents Cup." (Yonhap)