MELBOURNE, Australia – Matt Kuchar was worn out when he woke up Sunday morning for the final day of the Presidents Cup. He and partner Tony Finau had played 36 holes the day before, tying both their Four-Balls and Foursomes matches.
“I had a hard time getting going,” Kuchar said. “… Trying to get things going this morning was a bit of a challenge.”
Kuchar did have a late tee time – he was going out in the 11th match of the day against International Team veteran Louis Oosthuizen. Didn’t matter. He was still sluggish to start.
Oosthuizen won the first three holes with two birdies and a par. Kuchar did win the fifth hole with a birdie but lost the next one. He was 3 down at the turn – and given the closeness of the competition, the entire outcome may have been turning on his match.
“I dug myself a hole early, 3-down,” Kuchar said. “I’ve played enough match play, played enough golf, that if you keep plugging along, I knew some good things was happening.”
The good things finally arrived on the back nine. Kuchar hit his approach shot at the 10th to 8 feet and made birdie to win that hole. He hit his approach at the 11th to 9 feet, and made that birdie putt too. Now he was just 1 down.
Oosthuizen won the next hole but Kuchar won the par-3 14th when his tee shot finished inside 9 feet for another birdie. At the par-5 15th, Kuchar birdied from 7 feet while Oosthuizen parred. The match was now tied.
Kuchar had a chance to take the lead at the 16th but missed his 7-foot birdie putt. So he arrived at the 17th knowing that if he won the hole, he would be guaranteed a half-point. With the Americans leading 15-13 at the time, it would be the clinching half-point to retain the Presidents Cup.
Kuchar stuck his approach to 5-1/2 feet, then watched Oosthuizen miss his 16-1/2 footer for birdie. Kuchar followed by rolling in his putt … and setting off an American celebration. Oosthuizen won the 18th for the half-point but it didn’t matter. Kuchar had done what he needed to do, a rally to win the Presidents Cup.
Oosthuizen, meanwhile, was feeling just the opposite.
“I’m gutted,” he said. “I made one mistake, one mistake on 16 with a tee shot, and that was it. The rest was pretty clutch golf, but there was lots of birdies between the two of us. It was a good match.”
The half-point justified the faith Woods had put in Kuchar and Rickie Fowler (in the 12th match) to deliver the goods if the competition came down to the last two matches.
“To make that putt and to have everybody there on 17 – I don’t know how to explain the emotions,” Kuchar said. “I was just leaping out of my skin with joy. To do that was such a thrill and something I’m hugely proud of.”