- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2009

The United States swept the Internationals into the Pacific in the finale of the eighth Presidents Cup, sapping both the opposition and suspense by collecting the first five points in Sunday’s singles matches in a 19 1/2-14 1/2 victory at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods consummated the rout and a perfect 5-0 week by dead-centering an 8-foot birdie putt at the drivable 13th to clinch both his match and the cup. Earning a measure of revenge against the man who put the first blemish on his record from the 54-hole major pole at this year’s PGA Championship, Woods demolished Korea’s Y.E. Yang 6 and 5 in the singles.

Undoubtedly, Woods would have preferred to lift the Wanamaker Trophy in August. But his exclamation point against Yang pushed the United States past the magic winning threshold (17 points), giving captain Fred Couples and Co. a 17 1/2-10 lead with seven matches still on the course. Some meaningless International wins against somewhat indifferent, already victorious Americans produced the misleading final score. But the overall outcome was never in doubt from the time the Americans arrived at the 7,137-yard, par-71 course Sunday morning with a three-point lead until the moment Woods drove a stake through Yang on the 13th green.

“Today he won a big battle against Y.E. Yang, and I’m happy for him and us,” said Couples, who appeared to float through his victorious captaincy with the same elan that has defined his career as one of the game’s most popular players among both fans and his peers. “To be completely honest, I wasn’t nervous this week. I was maybe nervous over a couple of speeches I had to make, but that’s about it. … It was just a great group of guys on both sides.”

Some had better weeks than others:

Big winners:

• Woods and Phil Mickelson - The United States’ top two players came to the event with forgettable sub-.500 records in past Ryder and Presidents cups (combined 44-51-18). But both played brilliantly at Harding Park. Woods found a potential career partner in Steve Stricker (first 4-0 pairing in Presidents Cup history), Lefty has his groove back with his short stick and the world Nos. 1 and 2 posted a sparkling 9-0-1 record to drive the squad to its third consecutive victory in the biennial season-ending Cups. Both Tiger and Phil walked away from Harding Park following the best team match-play performances of their careers.

Both agreed that the advent of the FedEx Cup playoffs has been a boon to their form in the Ryder and Presidents cups.

“For me, it’s been huge,” said Mickelson, who knocked out Retief Goosen 2 and 1 in the singles to conclude his unbeaten week (4-0-1). “Instead of shutting it down for five or six weeks and then trying to find it again for one event, you’re playing your way into form in the playoffs.”

• Tim Clark - The shortest-knocking, least decorated player on either roster played as well as anyone at Harding Park. The South African’s 2-2-1 record doesn’t do justice to his gritty performance, which included a gutsy 18th-hole eagle Friday and barrels of birdies on the weekend. For the first time in his career, Clark actually looked taller than his putter.

Big losers:

• Greg Norman - Is it really any surprise that a team captained by Greg Norman came up short in the Presidents Cup? Sure, the Shark won two claret jugs and dozens of other tournaments around the world. But the most memorable moments in Norman’s career have been overwhelmingly negative.

From golf’s defining major choke-job at the 1996 Masters to the snake-bit Saturday Slam of 1986 to playoff hiccups in 1989 (British Open) and 1993 (PGA) to another Ugh-usta National meltdown in 1999 to last year’s flirt-and-failure at the British Open, Norman’s professional life has been a case study in disappointment on the game’s grandest stages.

There’s no question Norman earned the right to skipper an International team. But there’s also no doubt he brought bad karma.

U.S. captain Fred Couples, on the other hand, has half as many majors and a fraction of Norman’s victory total but rates exponentially higher on the clutch meter. Couples almost single-handedly put the Presidents Cup on the map, authoring the event’s cup-clinching shots in 1994 and 1996 and then asking for and taking down then-world No. 2 Vijay Singh in the Sunday singles in 2005.

Which man do you think inspired more confidence over the week at Harding Park - golf’s king of cool or its fake-o mako?

Norman didn’t help his cause by selecting slumping Adam Scott with one of his two wild-card choices. Though his other options weren’t particularly attractive, Scott had missed cuts in 10 of his last 15 starts at the time of his selection. The bald example of nepotism then predictably backfired; fellow Australian Scott finished 1-4 at Harding Park.

Throw in the bum right wing and a dissolving marriage to Chris Evert, and Norman has endured an absolutely atrocious month.

• South America - Though the game on the continent enjoyed a big week thanks to the dual announcements of the 2016 Olympics (site and sport), the Internationals lost the Presidents Cup in large part because of the hapless play of Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas. The pair finished a miserable 1-7 in San Francisco.

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