DUBLIN, Ohio — The Presidents Cup ended Sunday the same way it always goes — an American celebration after Tiger Woods delivered the winning point.
Woods’ back flared up on him again in the final hour at Muirfield Village. He still managed to hang on to beat Richard Sterne, 1 up, to give the Americans the 18 points they needed to win the Presidents Cup for the fifth straight time.
It was the third straight Presidents Cup that Woods won the cup-clinching match — all three with Fred Couples as the captain.
“It was a team effort this whole week,” said Woods, who went 4-1 for the best record of any player. “We really played well to give ourselves a nice lead.”
The biggest surprise was not so much the outcome — United States 18½, International 15½ — but that the matches ended without going to Monday.
Rain interrupted the matches all week and made the course Jack Nicklaus built so soft that it was mere target practice for the best players in the world outside Europe. The fourth session of foursomes had to be completed Sunday morning because of the delays. That might have been the end of International hopes.
The Americans were 3 down in two matches and turned them into a win and a halve, giving them a 14-8 lead going into the final round. The Americans needed only to win four of the 12 singles matches to keep the gold trophy. It was a little harder than they imagined, though it was a long shot for the Internationals.
“It was a tall order, but they gave it their best shot. These guys played their tails off,” International captain Nick Price said. “We’re a real hodge-podge of a team that came together from four corners of the planet. And they gave the might of America a run for their money.”
Even though the Americans clinched a tie with more than an hour left, it took until Woods in the ninth of 12 matches to secure the win.
“There was no intensity. We played and enjoyed the day and the people here in Columbus,” Phil Mickelson said after he made four bogeys in the last five holes and lost a match that ultimately didn’t matter to Angel Cabrera. “I thought it was going to be closed out early. On 12 or 13, they said, `Your match is going to count.’ What? We ended up winning. That’s all that matters.”
It looked like the rout was on early.
Hunter Mahan quickly dispatched of Hideki Matsuyama. Jason Dufner never trailed in beating Brendon de Jonge. Zach Johnson overwhelmed Branden Grace, keeping the South African winless for the week. That gave the Americans 17 points and assured them a tie. But it took more than an hour for them to clinch the cup thanks to a spirited effort by Price’s team.
Graham DeLaet, who earlier Sunday chipped in from in front of the 18th green to help earn a half-point, holed out from a bunker on the 18th for birdie to give him a 1-up win over 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. Ernie Els made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and won his match when Steve Stricker missed birdie putts on the last two holes.
Adam Scott and Jason Day won their matches, and Marc Leishman gave the Internationals yet another point when he made a 15-foot par from the back of the 18th green.
It figured to come down to Woods, who won despite not making a single birdie on the back nine.
He grabbed his back after trying to hit fairway metal into the par-5 15th green, though Sterne missed an 8-foot birdie putt to halve the hole. The match turned on the par-3 16th, when Sterne’s tee shot cleared the water, the green and nearly the sky boxes. He made bogey as Woods went 1-up.
Woods chipped to a foot for par on the 17th. On the final hole, Sterne left himself a 50-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never came close. Woods rolled his 30-foot attempt to tap-in range, and Sterne conceded.
Webb Simpson conceded the 18th hole from the fairway — he was up against a tree — to halve his match with Louis Oosthuizen. Still, it was the fifth straight time the Americans have won by at least three points, dating to the famous tie in South Africa.
The Internationals have only won this event once since it began in 1994, and that was 15 years ago in Australia.