/ Golf

Woods turns on style as US claim Presidents Cup

Updated: Sunday, 20 Nov 2011 15:44

Tiger Woods and Fred Couples embrace after the US sealed victory in the Presidents Cup
Tiger Woods and Fred Couples embrace after the US sealed victory in the Presidents Cup

The hug said it all today as Tiger Woods yet again clinched another Presidents Cup victory for the United States.

With the singles being shared 6-6, Greg Norman's International side were beaten 19-15 at Royal Melbourne and so have still won just one match since the event began in 1994.

Captain Fred Couples greeted Woods like a long-lost friend after he had turned on the style to beat Aaron Baddeley 4&3 in the penultimate game.

Couples came in a lot of criticism after handing the out-of-form Woods a wild card months before the match, even though it resulted in him leaving USPGA champion Keegan Bradley out of his side.

It looked a shocking decision when Woods suffered a record 7&6 defeat in the opening foursomes and then lost his second and fourth games as well.

But, helped by a putting tip from teammate Steve Stricker, the former number one was a quite brilliant five under par on a course so difficult Phil Mickelson did not even finish the first three holes en route to losing to Adam Scott.

"I don't know if I've ever felt vindicated in golf in 30 years, but I feel like I know what I'm doing," Couples said.

"There's a reason I picked Tiger early. He worked hard and when a guy says, 'Don't worry about me' you are going to smile.

"I got frustrated a bit (by the attacks on his selection) because I felt I was picking the greatest player I've ever seen play.

"I heard he was the Tiger of old today and Aaron Baddeley said it was phenomenal."

Woods, who also sealed the win in San Francisco two years ago, said: "I was hoping it would not come down to my point, but we didn't get off to a good start.

"I played well all week, but unfortunately didn't make any putts in the first four matches.

"Today was a different deal - they poured right in."

Stricker had advised a change of ball position and Woods added: "It felt great."

It does not yet mean Woods is back, of course. A year ago he was equally impressive in beating Francesco Molinari by the same score at the Ryder Cup and then his form deserted him again.

But while International captain Greg Norman insisted that he still would have chosen Bradley, he was pleased to see Woods playing so well again.

"Tiger's Tiger - he stepped up the plate," Norman said.

"I said to him, 'You need golf as much as golf needs you'. We all want to see him up there.

"Any player hates to see a great player struggle. We all know what it's like to go through the ins and outs of the game.

"You want to see the player who dominated the game come back so that when you beat him you feel like you beat him at the top of his game."

Norman's first thoughts were for his team, though. They were right up against it after losing the two sessions of foursomes by a combined 8-3.

Trailing by four points entering the 12 singles, they made the start they needed to and won the top four games thanks to KT Kim, Charl Schwartzel, Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy.

But the Americans had strength and experience in depth.

Hunter Mahan, whose loss to Graeme McDowell in the deciding Ryder Cup match at Celtic Manor reduced him to tears, crushed Jason Day 5&3 and David Toms absolutely hammered Robert Allenby 7&5.

For Allenby it was a fourth defeat in four games after he had been one of Norman's two wild cards.

Scott beat Mickelson 2&1, with the previously unbeaten Mickelson struggling to break 80 if it was stroke play, but Nick Watney defeated KJ Choi and Jim Furyk beat Ernie Els.

That enabled Furyk to join Mark O'Meara, Shigeki Maruyama and Woods two years ago as the only player to win a maximum five points.

It all set the stage for Woods to take the Americans over the winning line in fitting fashion with a superb bunker shot on the long 15th.

Baddeley had to chip in to keep the contest alive, but came up short.

There were still two games going at that point. Retief Goosen beat Matt Kuchar in the first of them, but Stricker overcame YE Yang to widen the gap to four points again.

The one International victory had come at Royal Melbourne in 1998 - and came by a thumping nine-point margin - but the Americans were much more prepared this time and it showed.