Notes Sluman Fills in for Sick Nicklaus

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GEORGE, South Africa -- Jeff Sluman found out quickly that being the assistant captain for the U.S. team at the Presidents Cup was hardly an honorary position.
 
Sluman, the former PGA champion who has never played in a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup, was in charge of the opening-round pairings Wednesday while Jack Nicklaus was confined to his bed with flulike symptoms.
 
'Jack looked at me at 3:30 PM and said, 'I trust your judgment. You know what you're doing, you know the players,'' Sluman said.
 
Matching the American players was not a problem. Sluman said the teams have been set for weeks, and all he had to do was put them in order against the International team.
 
Davis Love III, who has played on every U.S. cup team since 1993, offered to come along for support.
 
Nicklaus came out to the Links Course at Fancourt briefly during the final day of practice, standing weekly on the 10th tee as his final four players came through.
 
He said the illness was probably from something he ate at the team barbecue. When Love tried to shake his hand, Nicklaus pulled it back.
 
'I don't want you to catch anything, just in case,' Nicklaus said.
 
Later, Nicklaus issued a statement saying he expected to be fine for the first session of matches Thursday.
 
'The team is in capable hands with Jeff,' he said. 'One of the great honors and pleasures of being a captain is to be able to make the selections. I was happy that Jeff had the chance to experience that.'
 
Instead of a blind draw, captains in the Presidents Cup make one selection at a time, giving the captain a chance to match up the teams.
 
The United States had the first pick. The only instruction Nicklaus left for Sluman was to defer to the International team.
 
'At least I got one thing right,' Sluman said.
 
CUP CHARITY: Hasso Plattner, the owner of Fancourt Hotel and
Country Club Estates, agreed to underwrite the costs of the Presidents Cup to bring it to his golf course.
 
He was told there should be a surplus, which would go to charity.
 
Plattner decided to make sure that was the case by establishing a grant through his foundation for $6 million to two South African universities for HIV and AIDS research.
 
The name of the research group is 'isombululo,' the Xhosa word for solution.
 
'I don't know whether we can provide a solution, but it's an honest approach to do something that can be replicated by others,' Plattner said.
 
The donation got even larger when Plattner presented two university professors with the oversized check.
 
Because the South African rand is gaining on the U.S. dollar, Plattner scratched out the dollar sign and changed it to the euro, which officials said would mean an extra $1 million.
 
HAVING A BALL: Alternate-shot teams can be the most difficult to pair because of the different brands of golf balls used by the best players in the world.
 
That isn't as big of a problem at the Presidents Cup. Unlike the Ryder Cup, players are allowed to switch balls every hole.
 
Tiger Woods practiced some with the Callaway Black used by Charles Howell III during a practice round Wednesday, while Howell used Woods' Nike Tour Accuracy TW.
 
LOSING REMARK: The five Americans on the only losing Presidents Cup team at Royal Melbourne in Australia already had to live down the worst U.S. team loss, 20 1/2-11 1/2.
 
Jim Furyk and Davis Love III vividly recall the closing ceremonies.
 
John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, handed out gold medals to each member of the International team.
 
'Then he said, 'Now the silver medals for the losers,'' Love recalled. 'That's the way he said it. It really sunk in that we got killed.'
 
The Presidents Cup is a kinder affair than the Ryder Cup, so it didn't create an international incident.
 
Furyk still gets a chuckle out of it.
 
'We all went, 'Did we hear that right?' I'm sure the gentleman didn't mean anything by that,' Furyk said. 'The timing wasn't the best. I was like, 'Oh, thanks.' Had it been at Valderrama (the '97 loss in the Ryder Cup), it might have been more inappropriate.'
 
CLOTHES HORSE: Charles Howell III is known for his tight-fitting clothes with outrageous colors. He's a little out of place at the Presidents Cup, wearing regular golf shirts like the rest of his team.
 
'It's extremely loose,' Howell joked. 'From what I'm wearing right now, I could probably get about four outfits out of this. As I see it, we're wasting material.'
 
Still, he acknowledged on a warm day that the regular slacks were comfortable.
 
After a pause, Fred Funk considered the tight pants Howell has worn the last two years and said, 'Your voice is actually deeper than I thought it was.'
 
Related Links:
  • Meet the Teams
  • Full Coverage - The Presidents Cup
     
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