ORLANDO, Fla. -- A physics question. Or maybe it's geology. Something or the other.
If an entire team is spiraling down the commode in the Southern Hemisphere, does it spin down the drain in the opposite direction?
For the first five hours of the final day of Presidents Cup matches, expected to be a fait accompli and exercise in perfunctory trophy hoisting, the Americans seemed intent on turning a runaway romp into a nervous sprint.
Leading by a whopping four points entering Sunday singles play at diabolical Royal Melbourne, it would have taken losses in nine of the final 12 matches for the U.S. to lose the cup for only the second time in nine Presidents Cup competitions.
Forget red, white and blue. The graybeards made sure it never happened.
Playing as steadily as they had all week, the U.S. rode its four veteran players to a 19-15 victory, with an inexplicably reborn Jim Furyk leading the way with a perfect 5-0 mark.
"The old standbys at the end worked well," U.S. captain Fred Couples said.
They also worked overtime. Furyk beat Ernie Els, 4 and 3, and was joined in the singles' winner's circle by fellow 40-somethings Steve Stricker and David Toms. Along with Phil Mickelson, 41, who lost Sunday, the quartet was a combined 13-4 for the week. Furyk earlier in the week teamed with Mickelson for a 3-0 mark.
"I had Phil and he was playing great and had a positive attitude," said Furyk, who struggled through one of his least-productive seasons. "I have a feeling he probably asked to play with me because he felt he could get a lot out of me."
They seemingly nudged along each other.
Mickelson, who has played in all nine Presidents Cup matches, struggled Sunday but was 3-1 for the week, as was Toms. Stricker, playing in the final match off the tee, 2 and 1, to help hold off the International rally.
With anchor men Tiger Woods and Stricker yet to tee off, the U.S. was leading in one of the first 10 matches underway. Mickelson had hacked up the first few holes so badly, Adam Scott had hit exactly one putt on the first three greens as Lefty kept conceding hole after hole, losing four of the first five.
Furyk helped stop the initial bleeding with an eagle on the second hole to take a fast lead over Els. But the Internationals kept coming, cutting the lead to 14-12 at one point, but the back end of the International lineup could not sustain the early momentum, not with the U.S. veterans bringing up reinforcements from the rear.
Furyk, 41, became the third American player in event history to finish 5-0 for the week and improved his career mark to 20-10-3, matching Woods for most victories. He's the first player in his 40s to have a perfect week.
Fittingly, he scored the U.S. team's 17th point with a 5-and-3 victory over Els, ensuring the Americans would retain the cup with a tie, at minimum. Interestingly, Furyk was voted the 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year, but tanked at the Ryder Cup last fall, winning a half point. After struggling in 2011, he was the cup hero, making more key putts than he had all year.
"I didn’t expect to play as well as I did," he said, "but it had a lot to do with my putting."
Easy as it was to identify the core of the American success, the Internationals sputtered in large part because the crowds were never really in the matches all week. That's because, as impressive as the elder foursome was for the winning American side -- who won the cup for the seventh time in nine competitions, with one tie -- the host Australian contingent was a huge disappointment.
With five Aussies on the 12-man team, piloted by Oz legend Greg Norman, the local knowledge turned out to be a complete myth. World No. 8 Jason Day personified the Aussie struggles, shooting 44 on the front nine and losing 5-and-3.
The Australian five were a combined 7-14-3, and Melbourne native Geoff Ogilvy was the only Aussie with a winning record at 3-1-1. The other four had at least three losses apiece.