On the eve of the 11th edition of the Presidents Cup in Incheon City, South Korea, Jack Nicklaus, four-time U.S. captain, was asked about how the opposing sides stacked up against each other.
“I think it will be fairly even,” the Golden Bear predicted, assessing the United States and International teams.
Nicklaus might have had a little bit of inside information. Or he was just showing off his keen golf acumen again; in his prime Nicklaus could, with uncanny accuracy, predict the winning score of most major championships in which he competed. Regardless, when the dust settled at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea – thus the inside insight – Presidents Cup 2015 ended much the same as the previous 10, with the team from the United States holding the large gold trophy on Sunday night.
But the final score was 15 ½ to 14 ½, and the outcome was decided on the last hole in the last of 30 matches.
Bill Haas of the U.S. and Sangmoon Bae, a Korean-born rookie representing the Internationals, battled their nerves – and each other. Each endured pressures beyond playing for team and pride. Haas was a captain’s pick, and the captain happened to be his father, Jay. Bae, born in nearby Dae Gu, was competing in front of his countrymen, and he also was a captain’s pick by Nick Price.
The stakes (and shakes) couldn’t have been higher, and the two acquitted themselves splendidly. Haas somehow hung on for a 2-up decision, and USA hung onto the Presidents Cup to improve its record to 9-1-1.
It was quite a finish. Only the 2003 edition in South Africa was more closely contested, ending in a tie. After 34 matches and three extra holes between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, the two sides couldn’t separate themselves and shared the Cup. The U.S. captain was Jack Nicklaus, by the way.
Jay Haas, who made the cut a record 27 times in the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, fought back tears after his son scored the winning point in a match that he thought might not matter after the U.S. held the lead early in nine singles matches. “I couldn’t even have dreamt this,” he said while holding back tears. Later, he marveled at the whole week. “It’s hard to do much better than this. There was great golf start to finish by both teams … but I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
“I don’t think it could have got a whole lot more exciting than that," Price added. “I can't tell you what it's like to bring eight countries together, six different languages, different cultures. They bonded, and I’ll tell you what: I'm so proud. Irrelevant of the outcome – we obviously would have loved to have won – we put on a show of golf this week.”
It was all of that and more as the U.S. jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first day of foursomes matches, but the Internationals rallied and stayed within a point the rest of the week – and had the score tied on a couple of occasions. But it never held a lead.
They get another shot at Liberty National, in Jersey City, N.J., in 2017, trying to break a string of setbacks (except for the 2003 tie), dating back to their lone win in 1998 in Melbourne, Australia, recently selected as the site for the 2019 matches.