Golf: America prove a world apart

Dunhill Cup: Daly, Woods and O'Meara in States of grace as St Andrews bows to collective brilliance
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SUCH HAS been the quality of the American team for this year's Alfred Dunhill Cup, the talk has not been just of the US winning the title for the fourth time, but of becoming the first side to go through the entire competition winning all their individual matches. The former is very much alive but the possibility of the latter has been ended by Patrik Sjoland.

The Swede matched Mark O'Meara's 68 for a half, but Tiger Woods, after his second 66 of the week, and John Daly, after a tight match with Per- Ulrik Johansson, had already given the US the victory they needed.

The American dream team now face Spain in this morning's semi-finals, and then the winners of the match between South Africa, the defending champions, and Australia, who lost 2-1 to New Zealand but still won their group.

Scotland, the hosts, were left heading home for London last night. With Jose Maria Olazabal beating Gary Orr by three and Andrew Coltart hitting a pitch to a foot at the last to edge Santiago Luna, the tie came down to the play-off between Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Monty found his drive in a seeded divot and hit the green a distance from the hole. He then had to watch as Jimenez caught his sand-wedge heavy. The effect was for the ball to run out to within tap-in range. As the etiquette of the game demands, the Spaniard apologised to his opponent, but it did not make it any easier for the Scottish captain to bear.

"I didn't hit it very well," Jimenez admitted. He had similarly mis-hit his approach to the last and only the fact that his four-foot putt lipped out had kept the match alive. "It is the new shot of golf," Jimenez added with a smile. "Hit it fat and let it run to the hole."

Not only are the Americans in fine form on the course, but the threesome are gelling well in the press room. Woods, who finished 68th as an amateur in the 1995 Open here won by Daly, explained how he has learned to play the shots particular to links golf. "At the 10th, I had 161 yards to the hole and played a low four-iron to four feet," the 22-year-old said. "When I was 19 when I was here last, I would have hit a big banana hook with a six-iron and hoped to get it close." Said Daly: "I'm still playing that way."

Woods is 14 under for his three rounds so far this week and the odds on him winning the 2000 Open over the Old Course are shortening by the second. "He's going to be tough to beat at St Andrews," said Daly. O'Meara does not want to be forgotten, however. "Just who is the current title holder?" he said. The Masters and Open champion for the year is 42- under par for his last 12 rounds in this competition since 1996.

Daly and Johansson were both out in level par and then the Swede bogeyed the 11th. Despite a birdie at the next, Johansson dropped further behind. Daly drove on to the front of the green at the 316-yard hole but finding a bank between his ball and the cup, he elected to chip. The ball disappeared for an eagle. However, by the 17th, the match was level again. Johansson took the safe route with his approach, finding the front right of the green. Daly's huge drive had left him only 90 yards to the pin but his wedge shot came up short.

Now Daly faced a difficult chip shot, but not as difficult as the one he would face moments later. The chip-and-run was "two or three inches", according to Daly, short of pace and the contours of the terrain took the ball perilously close to the Road Hole Bunker. One of the game's most frightening hazards now lurked between Daly's ball and the green, with a road, a wall and out of bounds awaiting on the other side.

The "flop shot" that Daly produced, from a tight lie was sheer brilliance, leaving him three feet away. With Johansson three-putting, the hole was halved. "What he is trying to tell you," Woods interjected as Daly described the shot, "is that it was a hell of a shot."

O'Meara, who saw the stroke from down the fairway, told a particularly persistent questioner: "You can't play that shot. You would have been over the road and over the wall... and so would I."

Daly was just short of the green at the last with his drive but Johansson pitched to four feet before the American got the chance to putt two feet past. Johansson had to hole to take the match into extra holes and, with Woods also clearly ahead of Gronberg, Sweden's hopes of an upset disappeared when Johansson's putt did not.


Group One

United States 21/2 Sweden 1/2: J Daly 71 bt P-U Johansson 72, T Woods 66 bt M Gronberg 73, M O'Meara 68 halved with P Sjoland 68.

England bt Japan 3-0: L Westwood 70 bt K Miyamoto 71, P Baker 71 bt H Fujita 73, D Carter 69 bt N Serizawa 75.

P W L Pts Won

United States 3 3 0 3 8

Sweden 3 2 1 2 6

England 3 1 2 1 3

Japan 3 0 3 0 0

Group Two

Spain bt Scotland 2-1: JM Olazabal 68 bt G Orr 71, MA Jimenez 70 bt C Montgomerie 70 at 19th, S Luna 74 lost to A Coltart 73.

Ireland bt China 3-0: D Clarke 71 bt Zhang Lian-wei 73, P McGinley 74 bt Cheng Jun 78, P Harrington 71 bt Wu Xiang-bing 74.

P W L Pts Won

Spain 3 3 0 3 6

Scotland 3 2 1 2 5

Ireland 3 1 2 1 5

China 3 0 3 0 2

Group Three

Germany bt France 2-1: T Gogele 69 bt T Levet 72, A Cejka 75 lost to J Van de Velde 72, S Struver 68 bt O Edmond 70.

South Africa bt Zimbabwe 2-1: E Els 71 bt T Johnstone 77, D Frost 71 lost to N Price 69, R Goosen 71 bt M McNulty 76.

P W L Pts Won

South Africa 3 2 1 2 6

Germany 3 2 1 2 4

Zimbabwe 3 1 2 1 5

France 3 1 2 1 3

(South Africa qualify having won more games)

Group Four

Argentina bt South Korea 2-1: E Romero 72 lost to Shin Yong-jim 72 at 19th, A Cabrera 72 bt Kim Jong-duck 73, J Coceres 71 bt Kang Wook-soon 72.

New Zealand bt Australia 2-1: M Long 71 lost to C Parry 70, G Turner 72 bt S Appleby 73, F Nobilo 72 bt S Elkington 74.

P W L Pts Won

Australia 3 2 1 2 7

New Zealand 3 2 1 2 5

Argentina 3 1 2 1 3

South Korea 3 1 2 1 3

(Australia qualify having won more games)

Today's semi-finals

United States v Spain: 0815 J Daly v M Jimenez, 0825 T Woods v S Luna, 0835 M O'Meara v JM Olazabal. South Africa v Australia: 0845 D Frost v C Parry, 0855 R Goosen v S Appleby, 0905 E Els v Elkington.

Final: 1.30pm