MELBOURNE, Australia – Tiger Woods could no longer resist. He'd been diplomatic throughout his fortnight in Australia about Greg Norman's jibe about his selection as one of Fred Couples's captain's picks for this Presidents Cup.
But having rolled in his sixth birdie of the day to clinch the winning point for the Americans in their 19-15 triumph at Royal Melbourne, the opportunity availed itself and he grabbed it with both hands.
"Freddie is just a great captain, period,” Woods said. “He's fun to play for. I'm thankful that he picked me. Greg is probably not too happy about it after I closed out the Cup today."
For his part, Norman maintained he would have picked PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, but it was hard to argue with the decision Sunday as Woods made short work of the fourth different wind direction in as many days in Melbourne.
He made just one bogey to be unofficially five under when he wiped out hometown hero Aaron Baddeley – 4 and 3 on the 15th hole.
Woods formed part of a senior core at the back end of the Americans’ playing order for the singles session that steeled itself against what loomed as a dangerous rally by the International team.
As Woods stepped on the course in the penultimate match, his team was behind in six matches, all square in two and ahead in two. But Jim Furyk and David Toms, in the matches immediately ahead, took down previous Royal Melbourne tournament winners Ernie Els and Robert Allenby in style to prove the value of experience under intense pressure.
Playing behind Woods in the final match, Steve Stricker fell behind Y.E. Yang on the first hole, but he hit back with four consecutive wins from holes three through six to steady the American ship.
Stricker later said he'd been receiving daily treatment in Australia for his neck injury, but that it had held up well each day and that he had suffered no ill effects from the herniated disc that kept him sidelined for six weeks before this week.
As it turned out, Stricker may have played his most important role before play began Sunday. He walked behind Woods on the putting green and offered his thoughts on a couple of flaws in Woods's stroke.
"Stricks gave me a little lesson on the putting green, and whatever he says about putting, I'm going to do," Woods said. "All of a sudden, I found my natural body position, started seeing the lines ... I could feel the release and just felt really good."
Furyk was equally impressive, firing an eagle and four birdies on his way to a 4-and-3 win over Els and the week's only perfect 5-0 record.
"It turned out to be a good week for me, but mostly for the team," Furyk said. "We had a great bond, and to play my part feels good.
“It doesn't ever feel old pulling on the stars and stripes. We take great pride in it, and it showed today right through the team."
Webb Simpson made an impressive Presidents Cup debut, taking three out of five points, but lost 1 down to the rising Korean K.T. Kim on Sunday.
Bubba Watson, who played with Simpson the first three days, finished with the same record and also lost in singles to Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, 3 and 2.
Hunter Mahan (4-1-0), Phil Mickelson (3-1-0), Toms (3-1-0) and Nick Watney (2-1-1) were the other Americans to have winning records for the week.
All of which was music to the ears of Couples, who said his team executed his game plan to near perfection.
“We had a game plan to come play as a team, win as a team, and that's what we did,” he said.
Shot of the Day
He's been a revelation to Australian fans this week, so it was fitting that K.J. Choi did something special on the final day.
The Korean veteran, one of the few International players trailing at the time, scooped an unlikely bunker shot into the hole at the par-4 seventh. It set off one of the largest roars of the day, but ultimately Choi's inability to beat Nick Watney reflected his team's brave but futile effort.