All square after 13 holes against Tim Clark and Nick O'Hern, DiMarco and Mickelson executed flawlessly down the stretch for a 1-up victory. Woods rewarded Mickelson with a hearty hug, which was a long way from the famously frosty glare he gave Phil when they were paired at the 2004 Ryder Cup.
Sensing he had found his horses, Captain Jack sent DiMarco and Mickelson out first for the Friday four-balls. DiMarco produced clutch birdies on 15 and 17 to steal a halve from Angel Cabrera and Michael Campbell. Now it was time for Woods to step up, especially since there was some doubt whether his 15th career partner would show up at all on the 1st tee. Two weeks before, at the 84 Lumber Classic, Furyk strained muscles in his ribs, and the injury flared during the first day of competition. Furyk was in so much pain on Thursday (when he and Funk halved with Vijay Singh and Mark Hensby) that by the 6th tee he was flat on his back, receiving treatment from a physical therapist. He felt good enough to tee it up on Friday with Woods, who was nursing his own rib injury. The therapist on hand to tend to Furyk also wound up icing Woods's ribs throughout the round, but that did nothing to cool off Tiger, as he birdied five of the first 11 holes en route to a 3-and-2 victory over Hensby and Stuart Appleby. For Woods it was his first victory in a Presidents Cup four-ball. "I'm going to go back to the team room and say, 'I [didn't] even have to play, hardly!'" said Furyk, who, in fact, made a 20-footer for birdie on the 12th and then iced the win on 16 by almost holing out from the fairway.
After two days the Internationals led 6 1/2 to 5 1/2, with 10 points up for grabs during Saturday's double session. The most memorable match was Furyk-Woods versus Appleby-Singh, featuring a wild back nine during which only one hole was halved. Two down with two to play, Woods and Furyk birdied the final two holes to steal a momentum-turning halve. One of Woods's biggest fist pumps of the Cup came after the Americans' 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole--and it was his partner who stroked it. Last week Woods's enthusiasm and comfort level were at an alltime high for a team event, probably because he saw so much of himself in Furyk. Said Woods, "Tell you what, even though we have different styles of play, our personalities are very similar in how we approach the game and how we compete."
With the teams tied at 8 1/2 going into the afternoon, the four-balls were again dominated by DiMarco and Furyk and their respective partners. DiMarco and Mickelson overwhelmed O'Hern and Peter Lonard 6 and 5, a rout that was keyed by DiMarco's hole in one at the 7th, only the second ace in Presidents Cup history.
Meanwhile, Furyk birdied six of the first 12 holes to carry Woods in a rematch with Appleby and Singh. As is his wont, Woods asserted himself at a crucial time, slashing a spectacular shot out of the rough on the 16th hole to within 17 feet. While Furyk and Woods studied the line, discussed the speed, examined the green's topography, ruminated on the barometric pressure, rechecked the line, tested the wind and otherwise continued to dither over the putt, Singh ambled 75 yards from the front of the green up an embankment to where a handful of his teammates and their wives were idling. "It's like watching paint dry," he said sharply. Then again, you could paint a good-sized bedroom during Appleby's preshot routine, so maybe Singh should have tempered his criticism.
Eventually Woods rattled in his birdie putt for a 1-up lead and the Internationals couldn't answer, the U.S. ultimately winning 2 up. After a long day of golf the Presidents Cup was exactly where it was upon leaving South Africa two years ago: tied.
The major intrigue surrounding the Sunday singles matchups concerned Singh, the putative leader of the Internationals in the absence of Ernie Els, who is recovering from knee surgery. There was gleeful anticipation of another tussle with Woods, but Goosen was the Internationals' best player last week, and Nicklaus elected to match Woods against him. Anyway, Couples had already called dibs on Singh, saying in a team meeting he thought he could take down the big man from Fiji. "Freddie's always a leader on these teams," says Love. "It was a veteran move for him to ask to play Vijay."
The singles began as a red-white-and-blue rout. Batting leadoff, Leonard put the first point on the board--and got his first singles win in six tries at Presidents and Ryder Cups--stunning Clark with eagles on the 10th and 12th holes. David Toms (page G4), with five birdies and two eagles, and Kenny Perry (eight birdies in 15 holes) quickly followed with thunderous victories. But on cue the Internationals, led by Goosen, rallied.
Woods had come out with his face twisted into a scowl and his swing in a sweet groove, but Goosen didn't even seem to notice. Woods made birdie on the par-5 3rd, but Goosen stole the hole with a 45-footer for eagle. Woods went 1 up on the 4th when he chipped in for birdie, but the Goose squared the match again at the 9th with a 50-foot birdie putt. He took a 1-up lead with an improbable birdie from the rough on the par-4 16th, and then he brought Woods to his knees on 17. After flailing his drive into the trees, Woods had to kneel down to punch out, and the ensuing bogey ended the match 2 and 1, and gave him his first loss in four Presidents Cup singles matches.
Once again Furyk rode to the rescue. With six birdies against no bogeys he dispatched the previously undefeated Scott, running his alltime singles record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play to 7-0-1. The score was 15-14 for the Americans when Couples-Singh reached the 18th tee all square. To the Americans clustered around the 18th green there was a hopeful vibe. Said Sluman, "People may think otherwise, but Freddie's the alltime fighter and scrapper." With Singh in with a par, Couples had a downhill 21-footer for birdie on a line similar to the one DiMarco would face. Couples made his best stroke of the day, and in a preview of things to come, Couples was dancing on the green before the ball disappeared into the hole.