MELBOURNE, Australia — The emotions poured out of Tiger Woods just like they did at Augusta National Golf Club this past April, except this felt different.
The Masters victory, his 15th major championship that came 11 years after the one before it, was for him.
This was for 11 other players — at times his teammates, always under his captaincy — who delivered another victory for the United States in the Presidents Cup and a moment that nearly brought Woods to tears. When the decisive point was on the board Sunday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Woods celebrated with everyone he could find by hugging them hard enough to take their breath away.
"Any time you have moments where you're able to do something that is bigger than us as an individual, it's so much more meaningful and so much more special," Woods said.
The rest of the Americans felt the same way.
Trailing for the first time in 16 years, they followed his lead. Woods, the first playing captain in 25 years, went out in the first of 12 singles matches Sunday and outlasted Mexico's Abraham Ancer to set the Presidents Cup record with his 27th match victory. It also set the tone for his team on the final day.
Patrick Reed, winless in three matches through the first three days of this event — and heckled so badly at Royal Melbourne for his rules violation the weekend before at the Hero World Challenge that his brother-in-law caddie shoved a spectator Saturday and was kept from working Sunday — was 6 up through seven holes.
Dustin Johnson, playing for the first time since the Tour Championship in August because of knee surgery, was 4 up through seven holes against China's Haotong Li.
Perhaps most inspiring was Tony Finau in the second match. He was 4 down to Japan's Hideki Matsuyama through 10 holes when Finau won the next four and earned a half-point that put even more pressure on the International team.
Matt Kuchar delivered the winning point without even winning his match. His five-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole assured the Americans the half-point they needed to win the biennial competition for the eighth straight time.
The final singles match also ended in a halve for a 16-14 final score. The Americans tied a Presidents Cup record with an 8-4 margin in singles, the largest since the first event in 1994.
"It was really cool being part of this team and having Tiger as captain," Kuchar said. "We had a roomful of some of the greatest golfers in the world, and when he speaks, we listen. I think all of us will look back and have these pictures hanging on our walls and say, 'We played for and alongside Tiger Woods, the greatest player ever.' It was awesome."
It was crushing for the other side, hoping to end two decades without a victory for the International team that does not include Europe.
Ernie Els, who has finished second to Woods more times than anyone in golf, assembled the youngest International team ever and inspired them with equal doses of purpose and analytics. It had the lead going into Sunday for the first time since 2003, the tie in South Africa — Els' home country.
It just didn't have enough to cross the line.
"I followed a plan and it didn't quite work out, but we came damn close," said the 50-year-old Els, a four-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Famer. "If you compare our team on paper with other teams in other sports, you would have laughed us out of the building. But we gave it a hell of a go and we came mightily close to winning and upsetting one of the greatest golf teams of all time."
That team included the greatest player of his generation. Woods was appointed captain in March 2018 and suggested he might be a playing captain, which he later said was a joke. Then he won the Masters to cap off a comeback from injury made even more meaningful by the hugs he shared with family and others who never left his side through the downturn in his career.
Two weeks before he filled out his team with four captain's picks, Woods won in Japan for his 82nd career victory, leaving him no choice but to be the first captain to pick himself. He was the only player to go undefeated at Royal Melbourne, winning twice with Justin Thomas and all on his own against Ancer, one of seven rookies for the Internationals.
"We were very inspired to play for Tiger, with Tiger," Finau said, "and it's so satisfying to win this cup because of that."
Emotions were raw on the golf course as the Americans celebrated their first comeback victory since 1999, when they overcame a four-point deficit to win the Ryder Cup, the United States-verus-Europe event that alternates years with the Presidents Cup.
In his TV interview Sunday, Woods was fighting back tears, yet another indication to his players how much it meant.
"I love seeing other people cry, especially Tiger Woods," said Steve Stricker — one of three vice captains who allowed Woods to hold dual roles at Royal Melbourne — who then had to hold back tears of his own.
The Internationals at least kept it close, unlike two years ago at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, where they were one putt away from being eliminated on Saturday.
Even with so much American red on the scoreboards during this year's singles, the Internationals still had a chance in the final hour. Matsuyama lost a 1-up lead with a three-putt blunder from 25 feet that led to the halve with Finau. Adam Hadwin had a 15-foot birdie putt to beat Bryson DeChambeau on the 18th hole, but the Canadian had to settle for a halve when he missed on the high side.
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen lost a 3-up lead at the turn against Kuchar, who caught up on the 15th hole and set off the celebration two holes later. Their match ended in a halve.
At the closing ceremony, the International players stood with their arms crossed. The frustration was evident, even among the seven rookies.
The Americans now lead the series 11-1-1, with the only International victory coming at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
"I'm disappointed. That's all I can say," said Adam Scott, a 39-year-old Australian who has played nine straight Presidents Cups without winning. "But I like what's happening in the future. I can't wait for another crack at it."
The Internationals likely will want Els to return as captain in 2021, when the Americans host at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As for Woods?
"We are going to have those conversations in the future, but not right now," Woods said. "We are going to enjoy this one."