Woods delivers another knockout in Freddie's walk-off victory

October 06, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Fred Couples was once famously quoted as saying he didn't like to answer his telephone because there might be someone on the other end.

He's taken to texting like a pro, though, and Couples' thumbs were working overtime during Sunday's Singles session at The Presidents Cup.

His U.S. Team had been stuck on 17 points for what seemed like an eternity. One more point, one measley little point in the last eight matches at Muirfield Village, and the Americans would win that big gold trophy for the fifth straight time and the ninth time overall.

But whose match would be the decisive one?

That darn International Team just wouldn't quit. Canadian Graham DeLaet turned his match with U.S. rookie Jordan Spieth around over the final four holes. South Africa's Ernie Els found his putting touch at the most opportune time and outlasted the American veteran, Steve Stricker.

Suddenly, the U.S. lead was just three points. Couples, who was traipsing through the mud and the muck with his assistant Jimmy Gabrielson and another long-time friend, wasn't panicked but he did have a healthy amount of concern. So did his assistants, Davis Love III and Jay Haas.

"I must have asked 500 times, you know, how are we getting this fourth point, where is the fourth point coming from," Couples recalled.

"And then for a joke, I kept texting Davis and Jay, because yeah, you're nervous. You're nervous -- not for the players; the players know what they are doing -- but we knew we needed 18 points."

Turns out, Couples didn't need to be the least bit concerned.

This year's Presidents Cup ended the way it had in 2009 at Harding Park in San Francisco when he served as the U.S. captain for the first time. Ditto for 2011, a continent away at Royal Melbourne.

Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1 player, earned the clinching point in the 18.5-15.5 victory.

About eight hours earlier, Couples had countered Nick Price's pick of Richard Sterne in the ninth match of the day with the 14-time major champion. At the time, it seemed to be an unusual decision.

After all, the South African had not won a point all week and Woods, although he was in the process of losing his Four-ball match on Sunday morning, had started 3-0. The International Team had a trio of heavyweights in Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Angel Cabrera on deck.

"It's when people want to go," said Couples, who had Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Phil Mickelson as his final three. "People just ask me why you put Tiger up against Richard. Personally, Tiger has talked a little about Richard, his game this week. ...

"But it just came where Tiger goes anywhere from seven to nine, and we just didn't want to wait any longer, so we put him there."

Sterne proved surprisingly game, leading for two holes on the front nine and keeping the match all square through 15 holes. But the recently-named PGA TOUR Player of the Year delivered in a big way despite having his problematic back seize up on the 14th hole.

Woods took the lead for good with a par at the 16th hole after Sterne hit his tee shot into the water. Pars at the next hole sent Woods to the 18th, where his captain and teammates waited expectantly in the amphitheater around the green, with a 1 up lead.

Woods knew how important his match was. And he certainly didn't want to go extra holes to decide which side got the all-important point. 

"I was like a similar position as Freddie; where is our fourth point going to come from," Woods said. "I was at a point where I wasn't feeling my best coming down the stretch, and happened to get a 1-up lead. I was just trying to just hang on to that. ...

"I was like I really don't want to play anymore. Just can I win, can I halve this last hole, somehow, and it ended up being that way."

Tiger Woods gets a celebratory smooch from girlfriend Lindsey Vonn.

Clinching point 
Shot of the Day

Woods put his second shot on the green, some 34 feet from the pin. After Sterne couldn't convert from 58 for birdie, all Woods had to do was two-putt for the win. The U.S. celebrated with hugs and high-fives while the world No. 1 got a kiss from his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn.

"I think it was a very, very good match today, and the matches were all close," Couples said. "At no given time was I a nervous wreck, but it was nice when Tiger two-putted that last green to get the 18th point."

As the crowd lingered and continued to roar its approval, Couples walked out on the 18th green and donned a yellow shirt and green cap, posing for pictures with the Aussie Fanatics just as he had done two years ago in Melbourne. 

"We love you, Freddie, we do," the Fanatics sang, speaking for the crowd and the 12 members of the U.S. Team. "Freddie, we love you."

Couples clearly enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere -- and why shouldn't he? Minutes earlier he had told NBC that he was retiring as the U.S. captain.

"A three-peat's good enough for me," Couples had said with a smile.