A lot of pride goes into international golf competitions like the Presidents Cup.
Particularly when the U.S. team is coming off a painful loss in last year's Ryder Cup. The Presidents Cup may not have the same kind of prestige as its older "cousin," but reputations are on the line.
Nobody knows this better than Tiger Woods, who was part of the U.S. disaster at Medinah last year. He got blanked (0-3) when he teamed with Steve Stricker in the team competitions.
Woods was determined to see a better result at Muirfield Village against the International team—both in the team competition and with his individual play.
That determination manifested itself in stellar play on the course that Jack Nicklaus built. Woods, teamed with Matt Kuchar in the fourball and foursome events and paired against Richard Sterne in the singles match, had a robust 4-1 showing in the Presidents Cup.
If that wasn't enough, it was his 1-up victory over Sterne in the wet conditions Sunday afternoon that provided the winning margin for the United States in its 18.5-15.5 victory. That triumph assured there would be no Muirfield meltdown for the American team.
Woods was not at his best Sunday, as he struggled to put away the relatively unknown South African golfer. He also saw the return of the back pain that has flared up in recent weeks, and he had a noticeable twinge on the back nine.
But he was able to suck it up and keep competing, and he took the lead for good when he parred the 16th hole while Sterne bogeyed it.
Then, when he cozied up a long putt on the 18th hole and it was clear it was an easy kick-in, the International team conceded the match and the competition.
If that scenario seems familiar, it's only because the last two Presidents Cups were American victories Woods clinched with singles victories.
In the 2011 Presidents Cup, the U.S. defeated the International team 19-15 at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. Woods' clinching victory came when he defeated Aaron Baddeley by a 4-and-3 margin on the final day.
In the 2009 competition, the U.S. defeated the International team 19.5-14.5 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Woods trounced Y.E. Yang 6 and 5 to give the Americans the Presidents Cup.
This time around, Woods was at his best when teamed with Kuchar, as the pair won three of its four matches. Woods' four points were the most recorded by any American player in the competition.
''It was a team effort this whole week,'' Woods told Doug Ferguson, via GolfChannel.com. ''We really played well to give ourselves a nice lead.''
Woods may have been content to sum up his performance with the help of a hoary cliche, but there was something far more relaxed in his game this time around than in last year's Ryder Cup.
The U.S. has struggled against its European counterparts in the Ryder Cup, losing seven of the last nine times. However, the U.S. is a robust 8-1-1 versus the International competition, and the past success in the event probably takes some of the pressure off of Woods and the other U.S. golfers.
That showed itself in the playful attitudes of Woods and Kuchar, who high-fived Fresh Prince of Bel-Air style during their stellar opening round Thursday and continued to enjoy themselves through most of the event. (Although the rain Saturday and Sunday seemed to dampen their spirits.)
A relaxed and happy Woods is a powerful force on the golf course. He proved it again at Muirfield, and he should take that lesson with him when he prepares for the Ryder Cup next year.
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