Tiger Woods wins opening match, US takes Presidents Cup

Tiger Woods wins opening match, US takes Presidents Cup
U.S. team player and captain Tiger Woods, left, celebrates with vice captain Fred Couples after Woods won his singles match during the President's Cup golf tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — High emotions, fierce hugs from Tiger Woods, this time as a winner both ways in the Presidents Cup.

Woods capped off a big year that began with his 15th major at the Masters by playing and leading his U.S. team to another victory in the Presidents Cup on Sunday at Royal Melbourne.

The first playing captain in 25 years, he opened the 12 singles matches by beating Abraham Ancer to set the Presidents Cup record with his 27th match victory, and set the tone for the rest of his team.

The scoreboard was filled with American red scores all day as they rallied from a two-point deficit to win the Presidents Cup for the eighth straight time against an International team that faltered at the worst time.

Matt Kuchar delivered the clinching putt, a 5-footer for birdie that assured him a halve against Louis Oosthuizen and gave the Americans the 15 1/2 points they needed to win. “For us to be in a hole, to come back and win this thing … to win it as a team, but to do it with Tiger Woods as our captain was just a huge thrill,” Kuchar said.

They result was 16-14, and at least this one was a contest. The U.S. victory two years ago at Liberty National was so resounding that it nearly ended on Saturday. International captain Ernie Els was determined to turn it around. He created a new logo for the International team. He relied heavily on analytics. It still wasn’t enough.

“I followed a plan, and it didn’t quite work out, but we came damn close,” Els said.

Woods hugged everyone hard, players and vice captains alike, wearing a smile not seen since he walked off the 18th green at Augusta National after becoming a Masters champion again after injuries that nearly ended his career.

Patrick Reed, whose caddie was benched for shoving a fan who had cursed Reed from close range Saturday, built a 6-up lead through seven holes before eventually putting away C.T. Pan to win for the first time this week. Webb Simpson, who played with Reed as they lost all three team matches, never trailed in beating Byeong Hun An. Everyone on the U.S. team contributed something.

With so much red on the board, Tony Finau might have been his team the biggest boost. He was 4 down through 10 holes against Hideki Matsuyama, won the next four holes and earned a half-point.

The Americans are 11-1-1 in the event. The only International victory was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne.

PGA TOUR

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Rory Sabbatini and Kevin Tway won the QBE Shootout, birdieing the final two holes in best-ball play for a 12-under 60 and a two-stroke victory.

“Today it was mostly Rory,” Tway said. “I was just kind of hanging out. He played unbelievable from hole six through 10. I think, birdied every hole, then an eagle after that. So, I was just trying to put it in play, so I can take the pressure off him, because he was hot today.”

Part of a five-way tie for the second-round lead, Sabbatini and Tway finished at 31-under 185 in the three-day event at Tiburon Golf Club.

Jason Kokrak and J.T. Poston were second after a 62.

Brendon Todd-Billy Horschel and Harold Varner III-Ryan Palmer tied for third at 28 under after 63s. Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell were 27 under, also after a 63. Lexi Thompson and Sean O’Hair were last in the 12-team field at 8 under after a 70.

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OTHER TOURS

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond won the BNI Indonesian Masters for his third Asian Toiur victory of the season and fifth overall. He closed with a 7-under 65 for a five-stroke victory at Royale Jakarta Golf Club. He’s projected to move into the top 50 in the world and earn a spot in the Masters at Augusta National in April. … Argentina’s Franco Romero won the PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s season-ending Dev Series Final Copa Samsung in Lima, Peru. He beat Colombia’s Juan Pablo Luna with a par on the second hole of a playoff. Romero closed with a 1-under 71 to finish at 16 under. Luna had a 65. … Sweden’s Jarmo Sandelin won the Staysure Tour’s MCB Tour Championship-Mauritius in Poste de Flacq for his first senior title. He closed with 7-under 65 for a three-stroke victory.