DUBLIN, Ohio -- While the 17th point and retention of the Presidents Cup was secured by Zach Johnson with six matches still in play Sunday at sodden Muirfield Village Golf Club, outright victory for the Americans was not.
But just like foul weather showing up any time a golf tournament is played in these parts, world No. 1 Tiger Woods showed up just in the nick of time.
Looking relaxed from the start this week and taking well to his new partnership with Matt Kuchar, the 19th different partner he has been paired with in professional match-play team competitions, Woods overcame his troublesome back and two-putted the final hole to win 1 up against Richard Sterne to give the Americans their eighth victory in the 10th President Cup.
It was the third consecutive Presidents Cup that Woods earned the clinching point, and in this 18½-15½ victory, Woods earned four points - the most of any player. Woods, a five-time winner this year, also erased any thoughts of a replay of the Miracle at Medinah in last year's Ryder Cup, when he went 0-3-1 and the USA lost a 10-6 lead on the final day and fell to the Europeans.
"To have the opportunity to win the Cup for (captain) Freddie (Couples) and all the guys on the team, it means a lot to me," said Woods, whose back started to give him fits on the 14th hole. "It's been a long week for all of us. I think that a few of us are a little bit dinged up and our physios did a hell of a job this week of getting us out there and keeping us going. And especially with all of the start and stops ... I'm a little bit sore, and certainly I'm looking forward to not touching a club for a while.
" ... It was a team effort this whole week. ... 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."
Couples started to wonder if his team would do it. After taking a big 14-8 lead through four sessions of play in the weather-plagued event that saw suspensions of play totaling more than five hours, the USA needed just four points out of a possible 12 in singles play to get the outright win. But the Internationals were rallying in this biennial match-play bout and getting into position to shock everyone with a comeback that would earn a huge moral victory with a tie.
Couples said he wasn't a nervous wreck, but he was acting like one, texting "about 500 times" to his assistant captains Jay Haas and Davis Love III, pleading with them to find the fourth and final point the Americans needed to reach 18 and to win the matches. He stopped texting when Woods, who has a record 24 wins in the Presidents Cup, won his match.
"I was like in a similar position as Freddie; where is our fourth point going to come from," said Woods, who will next play in China on Oct. 28 in an exhibition match against Rory McIlroy. "I was at a point where I wasn't feeling my best coming down the stretch, and happened to get a 1-up lead.
"I was just trying to just hang on to that."
Couples is 3-0 as captain. Through relentless foul weather featuring nearly 2 inches of rainfall during the four days on competition, his team's unrelenting firepower overwhelmed the Internationals once again as every American accounted for at least two points, with Woods earning four and Kuchar, Johnson, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner 3 apiece.
"This is the third time I've had, as I said, All-Star teams every single time," Couples said. "We've gotten nice leads. In a way, maybe they relax a little bit because they are all playing so well, and it just turned out that Tiger ended up getting the point and playing 16, 17, 18 very, very well."
Stricker said it could be more than a win - it could be a steppingstone.
"Last year still stings," he said of the Ryder Cup, where the Americans have won just one of the last six. "If you ask the guys that were on that team last year, I guarantee every one of them would think that last year at the Ryder Cup still hurts a bit. So I think it's important that we came here and got a win.
"As golfers, we've dealt with defeats all the time. You don't win that much. You have your up-and-downs. So it's more about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and playing and getting ready to go again.
"But I think it was a good step for all of us to win again. It had a scenario brewing much like the Ryder Cup last year coming down to the end. So I think we can all take positives from this going forward to next year."
The next Ryder Cup is in Scotland next September.
The next Presidents Cup is in 2015 at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea. It's back to square one for the Internationals, which will somehow try and figure out a way to turn the tide of this series. International captain Nick Price emphatically said before the matches that his team didn't have to win to keep the Presidents Cup to keep it relevant, but it did have to be competitive. For most of the first three days and on Sunday afternoon, the Internationals were competitive and just got outplayed.
But Price, who lobbied successfully to have the matches start with fourballs instead of foursomes (alternate shot) because of the team's historically woeful record in that format, might lobby for some more changes.
Perhaps the Internationals get four captain's picks instead of two. Perhaps the matches go from 34 points up for grabs to 28, allowing for the Internationals to sit players and suppress the Americans' crushing depth of talent. Or perhaps the Internationals wait for the rest of the world to catch up, seeing as only 5% of the earth's population resides in the USA.
"There's lots of changes I would like to see but I don't think we should discuss those now. Let's let the Americans enjoy this win and let's look to the future as to what we can do to make this perhaps more competitive," Price said. "Let's let the dust settle and then look and see which way we're going to go to the future on this.
"I brought a pretty good team here and they played great golf. But the Americans just played phenomenal golf."
No one more so than Woods.
UNITED STATES 18½, INTERNATIONAL 15½
Singles: International 7½, United States 4½
Hunter Mahan, United States, def. Hideki Matsuyama, International, 3 and 2.
Jason Day, International, def. Brandt Snedeker, United States, 6 and 4.
Graham DeLaet, International, def. Jordan Spieth, United States, 1 up.
Ernie Els, International, def. Steve Stricker, United States, 1 up.
Jason Dufner, United States, def. Brendon de Jonge, International, 4 and 3.
Adam Scott, International, def. Bill Haas, United States, 2 and 1.
Zach Johnson, United States, def. Branden Grace, International, 4 and 2.
Marc Leishman, International, def. Matt Kuchar, United States, 1 up.
Tiger Woods, United States, def. Richard Sterne, International, 1 up.
Charl Schwartzel, International, def. Keegan Bradley, United States, 2 and 1.
Louis Oosthuizen, International, halved with Webb Simpson, United States.
Angel Cabrera, International, def. Phil Mickelson, United States, 1 up.