Cup fightback brings Internationals future hope
Adam Scott of Australia and the International Team watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during the Day Four Singles Matches at the Muirfield Village Golf Club on October 6, 2013 in Dublin, Ohio
The Americans improved to 8-1-1 in the biennial team golf showdown with an 18 1/2-15 1/2 victory Sunday over their global rivals at Muirfield Village, but not before getting a scare at the finish.
After the hosts moved within one point of clinching their fifth victory in a row over the Internationals, the US was beaten in four matches in a row.
Not until top-ranked Tiger Woods won 1-up over world number 41 Richard Sterne of South Africa did the US clinch the Cup and the final US victory margin was the slimmest since the same score in 2005.
It wasn't the victory that Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia said the Internationals needed to make the event "relevant" but from a side with seven Cup newcomers, it was a sign of hope for the future.
"We kept it very interesting. We gave it a good shake," Scott said.
"Our rally this week in a couple of the sessions and particularly today showed how much fight we've all got in us. We all wanted this badly."
The Internationals did not win a session in pairs play but outscored the Americans 7 1/2-4 1/2 in singles.
"These guys gave their hearts and souls this week," said International captain Nick Price. "Today just showed the grit, determination and resilience they have. I'm so proud of them."
Scott went 1-2 with a halved match alongside Japanese 20-year-old Hideki Matsuyama, whose hot putting impressed the field.
"He's the future of Asian golf," Scott said, also noting the solid play of Japan's Ryo Ishikawa. "He is coming along so fast. He has such a bright future."
The Americans won 2 1/2 points in four foursomes matches that were pushed to Sunday morning finishes by heavy rain that fell all four days of the event, swinging a crucial point when Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker went from 3-down after 12 holes to win 1-up over South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
"We were just a few too many points behind," Sterne said. "They were quite ahead of us in the foursomes and that made it really tough, but we gave it a good go. They made more putts than we did. That's what it came down to."
Four-time major winner Ernie Els of South Africa agreed that US putting made the difference.
"They made a lot of birdies. They got momentum in most of the sessions and we were trying to fight ourselves back into it," Els said.
"We just let some matches go, maybe a tee shot here or there or a putt. The Americans putted better than us but we weren't far away. It was closer than you think.
"We made a nice rally. These guys know what it's about now. They showed it this afternoon. We're getting there. This is an exceptional group. It's great to see these youngsters be so excited."
Graham DeLaet, who chipped in twice at 18 Sunday to win in singles and halve in foursomes, is already excited about the Internationals' chances in 2015 at South Korea.
"Our main goal was to win and it's slightly disappointing, but the friendships and bonds we've made over the last week will carry on for a lifetime," the Canadian said.
"That's what we're going to take out of this and we're going to be stronger in two years' time in Korea."