Golf: American misery is complete

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The Independent Online
HARD THOUGH it is to contemplate, America's golfers contrived a defeat as miserable and as wretched as anything England's cricketers can contrive on Australian soil. The true measure of the scale of their collapse was that the Internationals needed only two points from the final day's singles yesterday to win the Presidents Cup for the first time and duly collected them from the top two matches.

Craig Parry, a man whose form has been revitalised by playing in front of his home gallery on a Royal Melbourne course he played regularly in his youth, beat Justin Leonard 5 and 3 before Nick Price, a winner as an individual on both the previous Sundays, took the Internationals to the 161/2 point mark that secured victory with a 2 and 1 win over David Duval. Now neither the Presidents Cup nor the Ryder Cup resides on American soil.

All the other 10 singles instantly became meaningless, including the duel between Tiger Woods and Greg Norman. The American captain, Jack Nicklaus, had chosen that match-up after Tiger asked to face "the Shark", but it had all the hallmarks of a sop to television networks having to pad out their broadcasts once the contest was effectively over.

For the record, Woods won at the last to earn only his second point of the match. The singles were shared 6-6 leaving the United States with their worst- ever defeat in such competitions, 201/2-111/2. As at Valderrama last year in the Ryder Cup, the damage was done in the foursomes and fourballs when the Internationals created a nine-stroke lead.

"As with the Ryder Cup, the American players have the problem that the other team wants to beat the US more than the US wants to beat them," said Tim Finchem, the US Tour commissioner. Mark Calcavecchia seemed to confirm the mood of the visiting team when he said: "It never dawned on me we might lose. It is never fun to lose, but, if you are going to lose, it is better to lose to these guys than to the Europeans."

Nicklaus's team would have had to win 11 of the 12 singles to complete a remarkable victory and with a roster of star names, including the top four on the world rankings, logic suggested that Woods, the world No 1, should lead off the order.

Instead, Woods was buried at 11th - where he would have needed nine of the first 10 Americans to win to keep his match alive - and first up was Leonard, whose combined Ryder and Presidents Cup record now reads won 1, lost 8 and halved 3.

Nicklaus, whose unsurpassed record of 18 major titles was exactly double the aggregate tally of his team, now has the dubious distinction of being the first American captain to lose in the Presidents Cup as well as the first to lose the Ryder Cup at home, at his own Muirfield Village in 1987.

"Until we win on American soil, we cannot crow too much," said Peter Thomson, the International captain, who seemed to have the measure of his opposite number at every turn. "But this is beyond our dreams."

The five-times Open champion, who partnered Kel Nagle to victory in the World Cup at Royal Melbourne almost 40 years ago, added: "This is something above your own career. It is a great honour to be invited to be a captain and I suppose this is the biggest thing I've ever done."

The Australian only took over as captain shortly before the second Presidents Cup two years ago, which resulted in a one-point defeat for the Internationals. "It was then that the complexion of the event changed for me," Price said.

"It was then that I realised you could take a group of 12 players from the four corners of the world and make them a team. In the first match we were not a team, the second time we came close, but this time, thanks to Peter, we were a real team."

Eleven of the Internationals won at least two points and the other, Paraguay's Carlos Franco, gained some consolation with a half against Phil Mickelson. Having denied it all week, Thomson finally admitted that local knowledge of Royal Melbourne helped his side, although it was Shigeki Maruyama, who had never played here before, who ended the perfect 5-0 record.

"Maruyama has been outstanding and has established a personality," Thomson said. The 29-year-old Japanese player thumped the air in celebration of his 3 and 2 win over John Huston. "His enthusiasm has been infectious," Price said. "Every day he has walked into the locker-room with a huge smile on his face."

PRESIDENTS CUP (Royal Melbourne): (Second day, Saturday): Morning foursomes: F Nobilo & G Turner (Internationals) bt D Love III & J Leonard (USA) 2 up; L Janzen & M Calcavecchia (US) halved with G Norman & S Elkington (Int); S Maruyama & C Parry (Int) bt T Woods & F Couples (USA) 1 up; S Appleby & N Price (Int) bt P Mickelson & D Duval (USA) 1 up; E Els & V Singh (Int) bt J Furyk & S Hoch (USA) 6 and 4. Afternoon fourballs: M O'Meara & S Hoch (US) bt F Nobilo & G Turner (Int) 1up; S Maruyama & J Ozaki (Int) bt P Mickelson & D Duval (US) 3 and 2; E Els & V Singh (Int) bt T Woods & J Huston (US) 1up; L Janzen & M Calcavecchia (US) bt N Price & C Franco (Int) 3 and 2; G Norman & S Elkington (Int) bt F Couples & D Love III (USA) 2 and 1. International 14 1/2 United States 5 1/2. Yesterday's singles: C Parry (Int) bt J Leonard (US) 5 and 3; N Price (Int) bt D Duval (US) 2 and 1; J Furyk (US) bt F Nobilo (Int) 4 and 2; P Mickelson (US) halved with C Franco (Int); S Maruyama (Int) bt J Huston (US) 3 and 2; S Hoch (US) bt J Ozaki (Int) 4 and 3; M Calcavecchia (US) halved with G Turner (Int); L Janzen (US) halved with S Elkington (Int); E Els (Int) bt D Love III (US) 1up; F Couples (US) halved with V Singh (Int); T Woods (US) bt G Norman (Int) 1up; M O'Meara (US) bt S Appleby (Int) 1up; Final score: Internationals 201/2 United States 111/2.