MELBOURNE — 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 US 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 2-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 15½ points they needed to win.
They result was 16-14, and at least this one was a contest. The US 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.
Els thought back to Friday, when the Americans won two matches with birdies on the 18th hole to keep the International lead from growing. On Sunday, all he saw was US momentum that couldn’t be stopped.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted,” 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.
“We relied on one another as a team, and we did it — together,” Woods said, his voice choked slightly with emotion. “This cup wasn’t going to be given to us. We had to go earn it. And we did.”
Els fashioned the youngest International team from a record nine countries from everywhere outside Europe and took a 10-8 lead into the final day, the first time it had the edge in 16 years.
It wasn’t enough.
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 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 US team contributed something.
The Americans lead 11-1-1 in an event that began in 1994.
The only International victory was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, and several players from that team came to Australia this week to conjure up good vibes. It only worked for so long.
The Americans won the singles session for the first time since 2009. Most years, their lead was so big it wasn’t critical. This time it was. They hadn’t trailed since 2003 in South Africa, the year of the tie.
So inspired was the American play that none of their six singles victories made it to the 18th hole.
The last two matches were halved, and the 8-4 advantage in singles matched the record for the largest Sunday margin since the Americans won 8-4 in the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994.
Woods seized control around the turn against Ancer and won, 3 and 2, in the first of 12 singles matches.
Woods went 3-0 for the week as the first playing captain since Hale Irwin at the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994. His singles victory was his 27th in nine appearances, breaking the record Phil Mickelson had set in 12 events.
The idea was to get American red on the board quickly, and Woods did his part.
Ancer, one of seven rookies on the International team, three times answered when Woods took the lead. Woods, however, took over with a par on No. 9 and a birdie on the 10th. Ancer was still only 1 down through 13 holes when he three-putted from long range for bogey on the 14th.
Woods closed him out with a 20-foot birdie on the 16th hole, turning to remove his cap and shake hands with Ancer before the ball dropped into the cup.
The International team had the lead going into the final day of the Presidents Cup for the first time in 16 years, and it had a trio of rookies to thank for that.
Marc Leishman and Ancer staged a remarkable rally Saturday afternoon in foursomes, going from 5 down with eight holes to play to earn a most unlikely halve against Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
An and Joaquin Niemann never led in the final match and scratched out another half-point against Kuchar and Tony Finau.
That gave the Internationals a 10-8 lead going into Sunday singles, and a real chance to win the Presidents Cup for only the second time in its 25-year history.
Nothing inspired the Internationals more than to watch the final two teams on the course scratch out a half-point despite never leading at any point in the match.
“For us to scratch and scramble for 1 point, the guys were very excited about that,” Els said.
It looked as though it could have been even larger, when the Internationals built a 9-5 lead after the morning session.
The Americans finally showed some fight, even with Woods sitting out for both sessions. And the caddie of Patrick Reed might have shown too much fight. He confirmed in a statement to the Barstool Sports podcast “Fore Play” that he shoved a spectator who he felt got too close to Reed while cursing him.
Kessler Karrain, who is also Reed’s brother-in-law, will not be on his bag for the final session. Reed said in a statement he respects the tour’s decision and that everyone was focused on winning the cup.
It was the second straight week of scrutiny for the Reed camp, following his rules violation of scooping sand out of the way in the Bahamas that led to a two-shot penalty.