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Shining Moment in Presidents Cup Fades

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GEORGE, South Africa -- It was, in the estimation of someone who should know, one of the most unbelievable golf competitions ever.
 
Even more unbelievable was that it ended without a winner.
 
The Presidents Cup had the best players in the world, enough gut-churning drama for two Ryder Cups and one of the greatest clutch putts you'll ever see by the greatest player of his time.
 
Things got so intense that Ernie Els' knees were shaking as he stood over a putt, and Tiger Woods admitted that even he had to shake off a bad case of nerves.
 
Shamefully, it was all ruined by a hastily contrived ending that allowed American players to make a late-night charter flight home in time for Thanksgiving but raised the question of why they even bothered to play this thing to begin with.

'I have never seen two teams that played harder or played better,' U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus said. 'I did not find a team that deserved to lose.'
 
Sorry, Jack, but that's why you play the game. You should know, because you won 18 major championships and, if memory serves right, never shared any of them.
 
It's why the fans showed up in South Africa to watch, and it's why an American television audience sat through six hours of tape-delayed coverage only to find out something network executives already knew - there wasn't going to be a winner.
 
Just when the Presidents Cup seemed on the verge of the Ryder Cup-like status the PGA Tour desperately wants for it, it got lost it in a confusing agreement that left one small cup to be split between two teams.
 
Just how that was going to happen wasn't explained. Neither, fully, was the decision to call it quits.
 
'Make sure we get it the first six months,' Australia's Stephen Leaney said.
 
Nicklaus and International captain Gary Player were all smiles afterward, blaming the whole thing on a rule neither liked to begin with that put Woods and Els into a sudden-death playoff with the fate of their entire teams at stake.
 
It may have been unfair, but the rule was put in place for one reason - so the Presidents Cup would have a winner.
 
That didn't stop the two old competitors and friends from making up their own rules in a confusing scene on the second green after Woods and Els had played three overtime holes and darkness was approaching.
 
Woods had just made a brilliant 15-footer for par on the final hole, pumping his fist and pointing to the ball as it disappeared. Els answered by dropping his 6-footer to keep the match even.
 
Could it get any better? No, because Player and Nicklaus made sure it wouldn't.
 
The two captains rushed on the green and Player barked at a rules official that it was too dark to continue. Nicklaus said a tie was the best finish to such a great competition, but what he said in his next breath while on a mobile phone to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem didn't sound nearly as magnanimous.
 
'The only issue Gary has to understand is the United States is the defending champion and will retain the cup. That's just the way it is,' Nicklaus said.
 
Not so fast, said a confused Els. Player may have been the captain, but this was clearly the Big Easy's team.
 
'I've got to ask my team,' he said.
 
'Play, Ernie. We've got nothing to lose,' Stuart Appleby said.
 
The scene turned even more bizarre as the teams huddled separately on opposite ends of the green.
 
Just when the International team broke from its huddle to say it was ready to play Monday, the Americans came out of theirs with a solution to declare the teams co-winners. They would get half a cup, and be able to make their late-night plane, too.
 
'It's the most unbelievable event the game of golf has ever seen,' said Nicklaus, who knows a bit about great moments. 'There shouldn't be a loser.'
 
Later, the teams got together and talked about how good sportsmanship prevailed, how the game of golf was a winner and how great everything and everybody was.
 
Sorry, but in the end this wasn't good for golf.
 
Imagine Mike Weir and Len Mattiace both trying to put on the same green jacket if their Masters playoff earlier this year hadn't ended before dark. That wouldn't happen in Augusta, where they like their golf to separate a winner from a pretender.
 
In the end, perhaps this was more about two aging greats both wanting to go out with a nice moment together. Indeed, both were beaming in relief and elation as they held each other's arms aloft on the darkening green.
 
The Americans never really wanted to travel all the way to South Africa after a long PGA Tour season to begin with. They certainly didn't want to stick around another day.
 
'I didn't want to come back and play tomorrow,' Woods admitted.
 
Woods could be excused. He trashed Els in their singles match, then made the putt on the final hole he called 'one of the biggest putts in my life.'
 
Too bad that putt won't be remembered for anything more than getting Woods and his teammates back home in time for some turkey and pumpkin pie.
 

Related Links:
  • Presidents Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
     
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