Shining Moment in Presidents Cup Fades

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2003, 5:00 pm
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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    Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

    Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

    “On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

    His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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    Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

    Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

    Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

    Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

    Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

    Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

    Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

    Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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    JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

    Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

    “It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

    Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

    Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

    “He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

    Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”