The United States on Sunday won their sixth Presidents Cup in a row by edging out the International team 15.5-14.5 in a day of high drama and emotion.
Bill Haas brought tears to the eyes of his father, US captain Jay Haas, when he closed out the slender victory on the 18th hole of a nail-biting final singles match, beating hometown hero Bae Sang-Moon at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea.
Fighting back his emotions, Haas senior said: “Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to get through this. I can’t,” and then burst into tears, his voice breaking.
“Before Bill played 17, and I said, ‘Come on, Bill, win one for your mom here. Your mom deserves this’.”
It was heartbreak for Bae and the huge home galleries watching as he fluffed a chip from short of the green attempting to win the hole and square the match. This would have given the Internationals a 15-15 tie and a share of the cup for only the second time.
Haas was in the greenside sand but safely escaped to six feet, and when Bae could not hole his fourth he conceded the match to the American.
It was a dramatic denouement to a see-saw day in which the US, leading 9.5-8.5 overnight, had at one point looked firmly in the driving seat before the Internationals fought back to share the singles 6-6.
Midway through the final 12 matches the US led in eight and were all square in two, needing just six points to secure the golden trophy for the ninth time in the event’s 11th edition on its first visit to Asia.
Slowly but surely the never-say-die Internationals reeled in their opponents to set up a nail-biting finish that had seemed highly unlikely when the US had raced to a 4-1 lead after Thursday’s foursomes.
– Final hole drama –
No fewer than seven of the 12 singles on a bitterly cold, windy and wet day went to the final hole as a succession of the world’s best players suffered huge upsets.
World number one Jordan Spieth was two up after two holes against Marc Leishman. But the laid-back Aussie, who is ranked 36 places lower than the double 2015 Major champion, refused to be intimidated.
He squared the match at 14th and when the under-pressure Spieth took an uncharacteristic seven at the par-five 15th after finding the water with his third shot, Leishman had the lead and showed nerves of steel to sink an eight-footer for birdie at the l8th for a colossal win.
Earlier fourth-ranked double Masters champion Bubba Watson had missed a three-footer on 18 to hand a half point to Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, ranked 31.
When India’s Anirban Lahiri reached the final green against Chris Kirk all square he was faced with an almost identical putt to secure a half point. But he endured agony as it lipped out, giving the US an unexpected win at a pivotal moment.
Australia’s former world number one Adam Scott had levelled the match at 9.5-9.5 when he bagged the first point of the day with a 6 and 5 hammering of Rickie Fowler, ranked five.
– Amazing Grace –
Louis Oosthuizen had won all four of his matches up till Sunday but was behind most of the way against Patrick Reed before holing a dramatic eagle putt on 18 to snatch a half for the Internationals and keep his unbeaten record intact.
Just moments later Dustin Johnson took the first win for the US, 2 and 1 against a valiant Incheon-born Danny Lee, who had fought back from three down after three holes to lead with four to go before collapsing to defeat with three bogeys in a row.
And soon afterwards the ageless 45-year-old Phil Mickelson, in his 11th Presidents Cup, justified his captain’s pick by completing a 5 and 4 drubbing of Charl Schwartzel — with the highlight a trademark chip-in birdie from thick rough to win the 11th hole.
World number two Jason Day was turned over 3 and 2 by America’s Zach Johnson in a battle between the 2015 US PGA and British Open champions.
South African Branden Grace was also four wins from four on the week and showed no sign of letting up in the singles.
The amazing Grace holed a monster 62-foot putt on the ninth to go five up on Matt Kuchar and when he closed it out on the 17th he joined elite company in winning five points on the week.
Only Mark O’Meara (1996), Shigeki Matsuyama (1998), Tiger Woods (2009) and Jim Furyk (2011) had previously achieved the feat in Presidents Cup history.
It levelled the score at 14.5-14.5 and left the stage set for the final-hole drama.