President’s Cup: Best finish ever

mulligan, 25 September 2005, Comments Off on President’s Cup: Best finish ever
Categories: Uncategorized

The U.S. won the President’s Cup, 18.5 to 15.5, but the match was closer than the final score, thanks to miraculous down-the-stretch play from the last two International players Angel Cabrera and Stuart Appleby. They were paired against Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, respectively, the best players on the U.S. team this week. If you missed it, this was the best finish ever at any of these team events, Ryder Cups included.

(The 1999 Ryder Cup comeback by the U.S. team at The Country Club was pretty amazing, but is forever marred by the hooligan-like activity of a few drunk hecklers and the infamous celebration dance around the 17th hole after Justin Leonard sunk his birdie putt.)

For most of today’s singles matches, the President’s Cup was looking like one big dud. The U.S. team put up quick leads in 8 or more of the 12 matches. Justin Leonard and David Toms, playing 1 and 2, won their matches to give the U.S. 2 quick points. Kenny Perry finally found his game (shooting 6 or 7 under) and put up another point for the U.S. team. At that point, the US had 14 points and just needed to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. No problem, right?

Stem the tide: What seemed to turn things around for the International team was Retief Goosen’s defeat of Tiger Woods. Neither played exceptionally well, but Retief’s putting was on fire. The Goose was, hands down, the best player for the Internationals, going 4-0-1 (almost tying Shigeki Maruyama’s record of 5-0). Goose gave a rare defeat in singles to Tiger. The Internationals then later picked up wins from Michael Campbell, Mike Weir, and Peter Lonard. The momentum had swung back, somewhat, to the Internationals.

Captain’s pick: The U.S. picked up crucial victories from Jim Furyk (over Adam Scott), and Davis Love (over Nick O’Hern). But the guy who clinched at least a tie for the U.S. team was Captain’s pick Freddie Couples, who sunk a clutch birdie putt on the 18th hole to defeat Vijay Singh. It was a great putt for Freddie, who appeared to be fighting a mini-case of nerves or the yips in his very jabby putting stroke all day. But, hey, he made the one that counted most!

Best finish ever: So after Fred won his match, the U.S. had the lead at 17 points to 15 points. Two matches were still on the course: Lefty v. Cabrera; DiMarco v. Appleby. The U.S. needed to win 1 of those matches to win the Cup; the Internationals needed to win both to tie the Cup. Cabrera and Appleby then went on a birdie tear, producing a total of 5 birdies (2 for Cabrera and 3 for Appleby) within a stretch of 3 holes. Both were clearly in some kind of “Zone” because they made everything in sight and were stuffing close approach shots.

But, not surprisingly, given their play this week, Lefty and DiMarco were up for the challenge. Lefty stuffed his approach to 5 feet on the 18th hole and made his birdie putt, to square the match with Cabrera. Lefty thought he won the Cup for the U.S. with a halve, but the official informed a shocked Mickelson that, under the Captain’s rules, the play would continue in sudden death (no halves in singles). So Lefty and Angel went to No. 1 for more.

Meanwhile, DiMarco flared his drive into the rough, right next to the fairway bunker on the 18th. Appleby (of 400 yard fame) crushed his drive down the fairway — is this guy on steroids or what?? DiMarco, while standing awkwardly in the bunker, completely muscled the ball — which was above his feet — out of the rough, literally throwing his entire body into the swing and losing his balance on the follow through. Well, it worked. (And Johnny Miller called it before the shot.) The ball stopped 12 feet from the pin. Appleby then wedged his approach to 15 feet, but missed the putt. The stage was then set for DiMarco.

Jack Nicklaus realized that DiMarco’s putt was the same as the one Fred Couples had about an hour before. He went up to Freddie to ask about the break (b/c Jack could give advice to DiMarco, although he said he probably wouldn’t have). Freddie told Jack, “I don’t know… I closed my eyes and just hit it.” DiMarco didn’t need any help. His putt was money. U.S. wins.


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