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All Square in South Africa

GEORGE, South Africa -- United States captain Jack Nicklaus and International team captain Gary Player decided to share the Presidents Cup Sunday after darkness stopped a sudden-death playoff.
Since the matches were tied 17-17 after the completion of Sunday's singles matches, there was a sudden-death playoff between two players, which were decided by the captains before the start of competition.
To no one's surprise, the two players in the envelope were Tiger Woods for the Americans and Ernie Els for the Internationals. The two met in the penultimate singles match and Woods dispatched Els, 4 and 3.
On the third playoff hole, the par-3 second, both players had close to 100 feet for their birdie tries. Woods ran his birdie putt 15 feet past the hole and Els came up seven feet short. Woods holed his clutch putt only to see Els run home his par save and halve their third hole.
After the third playoff hole, Player and Nicklaus came on to the green and agreed that there was not enough light to continue play. They got PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who oversaw the competition, on a cell phone and stated that they could not continue.
Several options were discussed from there. One suggestion was for Els and Woods to return Monday morning but that was dismissed by Nicklaus, who thought since it was a team contest, all 12 players should compete on Monday.
The players did not want to return to the The Links Course at Fancourt Hotel & Country Club Estates Monday morning, so that was quickly shot down.
The next point of contention came when Nicklaus suggested that since the U.S. won the last Presidents Cup in 2000, they should retain the Cup. The International team did not like that so the captains took their teams aside to discuss their options.
Nicklaus and his side said that in the spirit of the game, they would share the Cup. That was acceptable to the International team and so for the first time in five stagings, the Presidents Cup was shared.
'It's dark. It's absolutely pitch dark,' said Player. 'If we tied, America retained the Cup. My guys said, 'No, we play now.' I came back to Jack and he mentioned his team said, 'We're tied and we both hold the Cup.' The American team made a gentlemanly decision.'
'It's not about who wins or loses. We said that from day one,' said Nicklaus. 'Gary and I both want to win. All our players want to win. The game is bigger than that.'
Sunday's action saw one of the most amazing days of golf in international team competition. The U.S. trailed by three points at the start of the singles and it came down to the final match with the teams tied at 16-16.
Davis Love III won the 16th hole in his match after Robert Allenby hit his second into some tall grass left of the hole. Both players hit great shots into the par-3 17th but neither converted their birdie putts.
At the par-5 18th, Love missed his second short of the green, while Allenby sent his over the putting surface. Love chunked a chip that rolled back to him and he hit his fourth eight feet past the hole. Allenby chipped to three feet, then Love missed his par putt and Allenby won the hole to earn a halve and tie the matches at 17 apiece.
'It was pretty intense,' said Love. 'When their whole team showed up on 14, I was pretty sure, it was us. I just didn't hit a good 4-iron. I just didn't hit the shot coming in.'
For the playoff, Woods and Els met on the 18th tee and the two halved the par-5 hole with pars. The first hole was the next in the extra session and Els found the fairway while Woods landed in the right rough. Els missed the green with his second and Woods left himself with a 40-footer for birdie. Els hit his chip six feet short of the flag and Woods had a about three feet for par. The hometown favorite sank his par-saving putt and Woods also converted his so it was on to No. 2.
Both players hit errant 5-irons off the tee. The advantage belonged to Els after their birdie lags but Woods holed his par putt first, then pumped his fists as his 11 teammates cheered by the green. Els cooly drained his putt and brought the same reaction from his International mates.
Then the confusion.
'Our team really busted it this week,' said Woods. 'It's been such a great week. I think there was a little speculation on whether or not we should've played a playoff to begin with.
'I think it's the right thing to do (sharing the Cup). It's great for golf because of how special it has been for the country of South Africa.'
Els agreed with the decision, only after it was clarified that the Cup would be shared, not retained by the Americans. In the Ryder Cup, if there is a tie, the defending champion keeps the Cup, and Els and his teammates were satisfied after it was made clear this Cup would not go back to U.S., who won in 2000.
'If it's the same deal as the Ryder Cup, if it's a tie, the team that won it last time retains the Cup,' said Els. 'We wanted to clarify that. My team was not happy with that.
'Then what Jack and Gary did, and what both teams did was the right thing.'
While the finish will surely spark debate as to whether or not a playoff between two players should be used to determine the outcome of a team event, Sunday featured an amazing day of singles matches.
Four matches went to the 18th hole. American Jerry Kelly, celebrating his 37th birthday, held off Tim Clark, Kenny Perry defeated Zimbabwe's Nick Price and Chris DiMarco bested Australian Stuart Appleby.
Perry and Price halved only three holes in an epic battle that saw Price rebound from 3-down deficits twice to square the match. Perry had a three-footer to win the 17th and guarantee at least a half point for the Americans, but missed.
At the 18th, Perry two-putted for birdie from 15 feet. Price had eight feet to square the match but the putt never fell and the three-time major winner snapped his putter over his knee in frustration.
The DiMarco/Appleby match became very important. When it reached the 17th hole, Appleby could have won the Presidents Cup for the Internationals if he won his match.
DiMarco won the 16th to draw even, then stiffed his tee ball at 17 to six feet. Appleby was in with par and DiMarco rolled home the putt to go 1-up, then held off Appleby for the win.
'I'm proud of myself,' admitted DiMarco.
In the battle of major winners in 2003, U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk beat Masters winner Mike Weir from Canada, 3 and 1, in the opening match.
K.J. Choi handled American Justin Leonard, 4 and 2, but Charles Howell III dusted Australian Adam Scott, 5 and 4, in the next match. Jay Haas, the 49-year- old pick by Nicklaus, tamed Stephen Leaney, 4 and 3, but Nicklaus' other pick, Fred Funk fell to Peter Lonard by the same score.
Phil Mickelson's 2003 Presidents Cup experience did not get any better Sunday. He lost to 2001 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, 2 and 1, to go 0-5 in the four- day competition.
Vijay Singh, the PGA Tour money champion, dismissed David Toms, 4 and 3, before Woods beat Els by the same margin.
Related Links:
  • Presidents Cup Scoring
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup