MELBOURNE, Australia – Midway through Sunday’s singles matches Greg Norman’s International side had cut the American advantage to 16-14. The captain had told his team the night before anything was possible and the players were responding.
But as the Americans began answering the International victories with points of their own the math, more so than the required moxie, finally caught up to them.
“We talked about it on the bus last night; it’s like putting bricks in a wall, effectively,” International assistant captain Frank Nobilo told GolfChannel.com. “Those first few matches were imperative, that they were all ahead and ahead big was even better.
“Then all of a sudden, Hunter Mahan got the first point (for the Americans). We knew if the fans got into it, which they’ve done all week, it would make it so much harder on the Americans if there was a swing point.”
It was the start Norman and Nobilo had envisioned but not the ending thanks in large part to American captain Fred Couples’ strategy to slot his veterans into the back of his Sunday lineup. Jim Furyk was the first to close out his match, followed by David Toms and finally Tiger Woods, who secured the winning point for the second consecutive Presidents Cup.
“We knew there was no way Woods was going to go out first. That’s not the way they historically do it,” Nobilo said. “I don’t think he was playing particularly well this week, but he knows how to win a point. Even a Tiger Woods slightly out of form is dangerous, particularly in a pressure situation. If he came out early that may have helped us, but in the back of our mind we knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“I was more surprised the (Steve) Strickers and all that were held back.”
For the week Nobilo said the biggest surprise for him was how easily the American players adjusted to a unique golf course and demanding conditions.
“I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve seen a golf course change so diversely for three straight days,” he said. “Three seasons, four winds for three straight days. That doesn’t even happen at an Open Championship. You’d like to think the guys who have played in Melbourne, that might have played into our hands. But seeing the shot-making from the Americans impressed me the most.”
This was Nobilo’s fifth Presidents Cup, three as a player and two as an assistant to Norman, and in the immediate aftermath of the 19-15 defeat he figured it was time for some “new blood.”
The experience, however, did give Nobilo a new perspective on the game and the matches.
“As a player you look at things very selfishly, but as an assistant you’re trying to help the captain, you’re trying to help the other 12 guys,” he said. “You’re probably a little more empathetic with the way you look at players.”