Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar produced a nerveless final round to lift the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup for the USA on Sunday. The Americans carded a five-under-par 67 in the final round foursomes to finish on 24-under for the tournament – two shots ahead of Germany and fast-finishing England.
Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who started the day two shots clear, struggled to an even-par 72 to finish joint third on 21-under.
On a day of tension at Mission Hills in Haikou, China, it was Woodland and Kuchar who excelled in the alternate-shot format.
“This feels great,” said an ecstatic Woodland. “It’s been a nice week and we’ve been treated very well here. We came here hoping to have some fun but we set a goal to win and that’s what we’ve done.
“It was an honour to represent our country and to play well and come out on top is a bonus.”
Kuchar echoed those sentiments. “To put our name on the World Cup trophy alongside some of those great names is just an honour,” he said
“We have been treated so well here, it has been a fantastic week. It’s a long way from home and a different culture but we have certainly been made to feel very welcome. I hope Gary and I can come back and defend the title in a couple of years.”
It was the USA’s first triumph in the World Cup of Golf since Tiger Woods and David Duval lifted the trophy in 2000.
The day began with five Major winners featuring in the top four teams as the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup threatened to turn into an all-star shootout.
In addition to McIlroy and McDowell – respectively the 2011 and 2010 US Open champions, South Africa boasted reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen.
Germany, with 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer paired with Alex Cejka, were also in the hunt.
But it was Kuchar and Woodland who seized the initiative with four birdies on the front nine to take a two-shot lead.
A bogey on the 11th coupled with a birdie for Ireland on the 10th briefly brought the two teams level, but the Americans birdied 12 and 13 and were never caught.
“We played phenomenal golf, especially today,” said Woodland. “It's a tough format and both of us picked each other up when the other one got in trouble. We got off to a hot start and really we were not in trouble on the back nine at all. It was a good day.”
Kuchar, the world No.10, paid tribute to his playing partner. “When I got selected to represent the United States, I also got to choose my partner and I thought that if I picked the right player, I'd have a real shot at winning. So I chose Gary, thinking that he would team up well with me, and he played fantastic this week. I have no doubt that he was the best player in the field. I’m fortunate that I picked him.”
Germany – with Kaymer and Cejka teaming up for the fourth successive time in the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup – were a threat all day but could not find enough birdies, producing just three in a round of 69.
Kaymer refused to be downhearted. “It was a great week,” he said. “This was our best result [as a duo] at the World Cup. I think we were not the favourites coming into the week, but we showed again that we play well together.
“Alex played fantastic golf today, so that kept us up there. I didn't have a good day. He saved a lot of good putts, a lot of good chips. He played proper golf today and I struggled a little bit.
“I look forward to the next few years because if I could have played a little better today, I think we would have had a good chance to win.”
Cejka added: “Of course, we were fighting all the way to the end. It was just one of those days and this is the way it goes sometimes. Overall, we are very happy with the way we played all four days.”
Star English duo Ian Poulter and Justin Rose roared up the leaderboard with a stunning 63 that included an eagle at the par-four 16th. But both admitted they had left themselves too much to do after the first three rounds.
“We were a little subdued last night,” revealed Poulter. “I don't think either of us was much company. We stayed in our own rooms and rightly so. It was disappointing to shoot only four-under in the fourballs yesterday, so to go and shoot nine-under in the foursomes is crazy.”
Rose added: “I felt like today was about coming out and playing for pride. You always have pride when you are playing for your country but it was also about restoring individual pride in ourselves.
“Both fourball days were uncharacteristic for us, and today was fun. We gelled and finally got the right rhythm and right intensity and I think when we do get that, we match up really, really well. It was just a case of too little, too late.”
For McIlroy and McDowell, it was another disappointing end to an OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup after they finished joint second behind Italy in the previous edition of the tournament in 2009.“We just didn't have it out there today,” said McDowell. “We’re disappointed, of course, but this is a high quality golf tournament. The USA have played fantastic, England have played phenomenally well. That was the high standard that we had to live up to today and we just didn't do it.”
Australia (69), Scotland (66) and the Netherlands (68) all finished joint third with Ireland. South Africa, meanwhile, endured a torrid day, returning a 74 to end up 12th.
A total of 28 nations took part in the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup.
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