By Simon Evans
DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) – Tiger Woods, despite battling back pain, clinched the decisive point for the United States at a Presidents Cup for the third straight time on Sunday, holding on for a one-up victory over Richard Sterne.
Woods was 4-1 for the week, the best record of any of the 24 players involved in the biennial team competition, but he faced a surprisingly stiff test from the South African.
In intermittent rain at a sodden Muirfield Village Golf Club, the world number one had trailed after bogeying the par-five seventh but he got in front when Sterne bogeyed the 16th and sealed the win with a comfortable par at the 18th hole.
“It feels good. It was a team effort this whole week. We really played well and gave ourselves a really nice lead going into the singles and it was a tough day, tough conditions, rain, wind, tough all around,” said Woods.
United States captain Fred Couples said he began to wonder how his team were going to wrap up what had earlier looked like a comfortable victory and Woods, whose back problem flared up again on the 14th, said he had felt some of that uneasiness too.
“I was like in a similar position as Freddie; where is our fourth point going to come from? I was at a point where I wasn’t feeling my best coming down the stretch, and happened to get a one‑up lead,” said Woods.
“I was just trying to hang on to that. Problem was, I knew I wasn’t feeling good, and if I happened to mess up 18 we had to continue playing until it was decided.
“I really don’t want to play anymore. I just thought – can I win, can I halve this last hole, somehow? And it ended up being that way.
“To have the opportunity to win the Cup for Freddie and all the guys on the team, it means a lot to me, and to be able to have trust in the guys and be able to go out there and earn a point, it means a lot.”
Woods had been in fine form throughout the week, impressing in foursome and fourballs with new team mate Matt Kuchar before taking on the key role in the eighth match of the singles.
Despite a series of lengthy rain delays throughout the tournament and the pain from his back, Woods said he had enjoyed being back in the team environment.
“We have a great time, you kidding me? This is why when you first experience it, you want to get back on these teams each and every year. It’s just a lot of fun. It was a long week but it was worth it. We did it,” he said.
In the end, Woods needed to two-putt from 30 feet at the last to pick up the necessary point and put the U.S. over the line. and Sterne conceded him the second, offering his hand.
“At no given time was I a nervous wreck, but it was nice when Tiger … got the 18th point,” said Couples.