Americans get it done early, clinch 2017 Presidents Cup title

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 1, 2017 at 7:24 PM
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The United States team wasn't at its best on Sunday in the singles competition of the 12th Presidents Cup.

It didn't have to be after posting dominating performances over the International Team on the first three days that led to a record lead heading into the final session of this biennial event.

If there was such a thing as a stroll in the park on the golf course, in such a competition, then that's what the Americans enjoyed on Sunday afternoon at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

The United States squad clinched the only point it needed to win with halves on two of the first four holes and went on to post a 19-11 victory in the four-day showdown between some of the best golfers on the planet in the rarely used team format.

"It was really weird to have stress-free singles," said Phil Mickelson, who played in his 100th team match on Sunday. "We're usually going through Saturday night for the next day, how we are going to attack it, going through a game plan. It was a totally different feel. This is a special team. There's not only a lot of great talent here, but they are getting the best out in each other and it's exciting to see and exciting to be a part of."

The Americans entered Sunday's 12 matches with a 14 1/2 -3 1/2 points lead and needed only one point, either with a win or two halves to clinch the Cup for the seventh straight time. They also won it for the 10th time in 12 editions of this completion, which was first played in 1994.

"It was a fun ride," American coach Steve Stricker said of his first time in charge. "These guys played so well all year long and they came here with a lot of confidence. They continued it right through this tournament here.

"I'm so proud of them all. They just kept grinding it out and kept fighting, and they never lost the focus. They just, you know, they feel a special connection to one another. They love playing with one another and they just have fun with it. "

The United States team got a half-point closer when Kevin Chappell halved the lead match of the day with Australia's Marc Leishman.

The International Team, which was made up of players not from Europe, staved off elimination when Jason Day of Australia beat Charley Hoffman 2 and 1 in the day's second match.

Then Japan's Hideki Matsuyama beat Justin Thomas 3 and 1 in the third match of singles play to delay the inevitable for at least 15 more minutes.

Berger officially won the deciding point for the Americans when, already 3 up on South Korea's Si Woo Kim, halved the 15th hole, guaranteeing at least a half in the match. Berger ended up winning the match 2 and 1.

The International Team finally got on track in the final day, winning 4 1/2 of the possible five points immediately after Berger had clinched the Cup for the Americans.

During that stretch, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa beat Matt Kuchar, 1 up; Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa beat Patrick Reed, 1 up; Adam Scott of Australia easily handled Brooks Koepka 3 and 2; and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela outlasted Jordan Spieth 2 and 1 in a battle between two golfers who played collegiately at the University of Texas.

"We all knew today was going to be a better day than the others," said Nick Price, who is now 0-3 leading the International Team in this event. "These guys got out and put their hearts and souls into today. Winning this session is going to leave a much better taste in our mouth than what was happening yesterday and the day before and the day before."

Rickie Fowler and Mickelson had the only other wins of the day for the Americans, trouncing Emiliano Grillo of Argentina 6 and 4, and Adam Hadwin of Canada, 2 and 1, respectively.

Two other matches -- between Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace of South Africa, and Kevin Kisner and Anirban Lahiri of India -- were halved.

The 2019 Presidents Cup will be held at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

NOTES: The 11-point lead by the U.S. Team heading into Sunday's singles matches surpassed the previous record of nine points; the International Team led by nine points in 1998 and ended up beating the U.S. Team 20 1/2-11 1/2 when the competition offered 32 points. ... The largest overall margin of victory in Presidents Cup history after all sessions is 11 points, when the U.S. defeated the International team 21 1/2-10 1/2 in 2000. ... Since 2007, the U.S. Team leads the International Team in foursomes (alternate shot) play 45-17 and in four-ball (best ball) play 33-29.

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