For the fifth time in as many tries, the United States has walked away with the Presidents Cup trophy in-hand.
Tiger Woods defeated Richard Sterne 1-up on Sunday afternoon to give his country the necessary points to clinch victory, and the United States eventually closed proceedings with an 18.5-15.5 victory. Woods' close-out putt came hours after Zach Johnson had initially given the his side, which was hosting the event this year at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, the necessary 17 points to at least clinch a tie.
While there were certainly ghosts of last year's Ryder Cup collapse, there were few who expected a repeat on Sunday. The International side had fallen behind by six matches by the time foursome play ended in the morning, leaving it needing an even bigger collapse than the 10-6 fiasco that cost the U.S. that event.
The tournament in and of itself felt anticlimactic.
Not only did the United States pull ahead to a massive lead in fourball and foursome play, inclement weather continually halted the Presidents Cup and left schedules in flux. Coupled with NBC putting Sunday's action in tape delay—yes, that still exists in 2013 for some god-awful reason—the event ended with a shrug rather than a Tiger-esque roar.
Luckily, in today's information age, we have the ability enjoy things the way we want. Those who cared knew the United States had clinched the event hours before the delayed coverage told them, and those fans know that it wasn't always as locked in as it seemed.
With that in mind, let's look back on the event that was and give a couple of the biggest takeaways from the 2013 Presidents Cup.
So...What's the Deal With This Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup Dichotomy?
As established in the introduction, the United States has won five straight Presidents Cup events. The last time the United States lost a Presidents Cup was during the Clinton administration. The last non-win for the U.S. was a draw in 2003, and the 2013 host country has an overall record of 8-1-1 in the event since its inception.
It's worth noting here that the Presidents Cup has only been around since 1994. Why, you ask, is that worth mentioning? Well, because the United States has nearly been as putrid in the Ryder Cup as it has been excellent in the Presidents Cup.
The Europeans have won five of the past six Ryder Cup championships, and hold a 7-2 record since that arbitrary cut-off. While the United States holds a massive advantage over the course of Ryder Cup history and had to collapse this year
Usually, I'd say this is arbitrary and relatively meaningless. But there is one key difference between the two events that I think bodes well for the United States in Presidents Cup play: the number of matches.
Unlike the Ryder Cup, there are rarely "hiders" on Presidents Cup teams. All 12 golfers on both sides have to participate on Thursday and Friday, and only two get to sit out Saturday's session. That's compared to only four pairings needing to play on each of the first three days at the Ryder Cup. (Both tournaments force all 12 players to go during Sunday's head-to-head schedule.)
What that exposes, at least if these results are any indication, is a deeper well of talent for the United States side. Per the current World Golf Rankings, the United States boasts seven of the Top 11 players in the world but only nine of the Top 20. Although the teams are not divvied up straight down the line, the Europeans are often able to pit its meaty middle players—guys ranked in that 11-20 range—against relative weaklings from the United States.
But what happens by forcing all 12 players into action? That's where the depth of the U.S. talent shines.
Seven of the players ranked from 21-28 are from the United States. When crafting a roster of their best 12 and needing each to play every day, the Europeans are unable to limit the effect of Richard Sterne being on the team.
I posit this as only a theory, of course, but it's just something to think about.
Tiger Woods, What Do We Do With You?
As an unabashed Woodsian supporter—I like greatness and still despise the Schadenfreude folks displayed when he was having personal issues—it's become increasingly difficult to stay optimistic. Any other player on tour, save for maybe Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, would have killed for Woods' 2013 season. He won five times, stayed in contention in half the year's majors and won the PGA Tour Player of the Year award.
But then the cracks began to show. You look at Tigers' fourth-round stats and the tears start to well.
You realize it's been a half-decade since he won a major, and a solitary tear rolls down your face. You see him drop to the ground in back or knee pain, realize he's pushing 38 years on this planet and the waterworks start in full force.
It's a confusing time for fans—until His Excellence returns in full force. This week was another reminder of how good Tiger can be even with all of the injuries and advancing age. For the third straight time, he closed out the Presidents Cup by scoring the winning points and finished the event with an overall solid record of 3-1.
Three of those wins came with playing partner Matt Kuchar. The duo stormed through the International side with three straight wins from Thursday through Saturday, heading into Sunday as the only undefeated players in the field before losing their opening match on the final day.
Kuchar and Woods also had a camaraderie on the course you rarely see with Eldrick nowadays, doing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air handshake and generally looking like two people who like each other.
Seeing as Tiger isn't exactly the most relaxed of competitors, it was somewhat jarring to see a consistent smile.
That said, this weekend followed a familiar pattern for Tiger. He defeated Sterne in their individual match-play event, but did so while shooting an even-par round. He also compiled a 4-1 record this week on a course where he already won five times, falling into his 2013 pattern of winning places where he's already been dominant.
In other words: He's the same Tiger we were just wringing our hands about. Plus a smile. So there's that.
And Then There's Everyone Else
Whenever Tiger Woods tees off in an event, the conversation automatically changes. All other golfers become secondary figures to the larger narrative. We see it in plenty of other sports, but never so blatantly as it happens with Eldrick. Folks tune in or out based on whether the world's best golfer is in the field, and then tune in or out in respect to how he's doing within a said tournament.
Too often it obscures otherwise stellar performances. And while there was nothing really for him to obscure—Woods was part of a team effort, and his standing in the lede of every recap comes from his capping off the victory—his mere presence did leave some golfers in need of praise.
In particular, Woods' partner Matt Kuchar was brilliant throughout.
He and Woods were undefeated together through the first three days of play and had no issues before losing their opening match Sunday. Kuchar not only matched his more-famous partner stroke for stroke, he also kept Woods loose and showed a nice comfort level with him.
Jason Dufner was a part of some of the most dominant performances in the field. Alongside Zach Johnson, Dufner won twice with three holes remaining. And then he did it again himself on Sunday, taking down Brendon de Jonge 4-and-3. Dufner and Johnson found themselves taking on opponents akin to an BCS school taking on a succession of FCS opponents playing the dregs of the International offerings.
But their wins counted all the same, and it's certainly not Dufner's nor Johnson's fault that they faced breezy competition.
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