Els played a fadeaway from the lip of a fairway bunker to the front of the green, and Cabrera's putt stopped 4 feet short of the hole. This putt was not conceded, and Els missed it to halve the hole and lose the match.
Then there was Retief Goosen and Stuart Appleby, also tried to squeeze out a half-point with a win on the 18th hole. Appleby, however, pulled his approach so badly that it took 15 minutes to get a ruling, and Goosen's best option was to take a penalty stroke and hit their third shot over a row of corporate chalets. Lucas Glover and Scott Verplank made a par from the bunker for a 2-up win.
Woods and Howell had a few nervous moments, even though they never trailed after the sixth hole. They were 1 up on the 16th hole when Choi hit his tee shot into the water, and it looked as though the Americans had control. Howell followed him into the water with a fairway metal to lose the advantage, but he redeemed himself with a 15-foot par putt from the fringe.
"I did not want to miss that putt. I was not going to miss the putt," Howell said. "I can't let him down."
They slapped hands walking off the green, and Woods closed out the match with a tee shot into 3 feet on the par-3 17th.
Still, no match was more compelling than Mickelson-Austin against Weir-Singh, and it certainly was the loudest given the wild changes in momentum and a gallery that cheered at the sight of its Canadian star walking up to the green.
Down early, Weir and Singh won five out of seven holes to build a 3-up lead and appeared to be in control until Mickelson and Austin ran off three straight birdies to square the match. That set the stage for a dramatic finish.
- Singh holed out from a bunker for birdie to win the 15th.
- Austin holed a 7-foot par putt to halve the 16th, then Mickelson poured in a 15-foot birdie putt to win the 17th and square the match.
Austin blinked first on the 18th, missing badly to the left into a bunker, and Mickelson did well to blast out to 12 feet. Singh went to the right, although Weir had a good lie in the rough and chipped to 3 1/2 feet.
Austin made yet another clutch putt, getting his Presidents Cup debut off to a rousing start, and that's when Nicklaus stepped in. Mickelson and Singh have a strained relationship dating to their argument over spikes at the 2005 Masters, but Lefty had no trouble following the captain's instructions.
"There shouldn't have been a winner or loser," Mickelson said.
But he jokingly got in Nicklaus' way as Els stood over a par putt from just a little longer, and perhaps it was fitting the Big Easy missed.
It gave the Americans a five-point lead, their largest since 2000, when they went on to a record margin of victory.
"We've seen this board the last two Ryder Cups," Woods said of the margin, before sarcastically noting that the lead belonged to Europe. "We're still a long way away from this thing."