Golf: Barr flies past Kite as Americans falter: Journeyman plays the tournament of his life and Stewart overhauls Couples in final straight to make Canada unlikely champions

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE congregate around the infamous 17th, alias the Road Hole, with a morbid intensity that the vulture family would envy. Yesterday, at a sensitive stage in the final of the Alfred Dunhill Cup, the bloodlust was satisfied when Tom Kite became the prey as Canada defeated the United States in the biggest upset in the tournament since, well, Scotland defeated Paraguay on the first day.

Dave Barr, from Kelowna, Rick Gibson, from Calgary, and Ray Stewart, from Matsqui, won pounds 100,000 each, about pounds 99,000 more than they have ever won before, and their splendid achievement was epitomised by the tenacious victory of Stewart in the final decisive match against Fred Couples. Stewart is ranked 452nd in the world, Couples sixth.

The outlandish result was made possible when Barr, a 42-year-old journeyman, downed Kite in the first match with a 70 to a 71. Barr, who had played some of the finest golf of his life in defeating Nick Price and Bernhard Langer at the round-robin stage, was a stroke ahead of Kite as they took to the Road Hole. In the morning, when the United States beat England, Kite had 196 yards to the flag for his approach shot and he hit a four-iron with a high draw to the heart of the green. Against Barr, who was short of the green with his second, Kite had 195 yards to the pin. Again he reached for the four-iron and this time his ball cleared the green, took one bounce on the road and flew into the crowd where it was caught by a spectator who joyfully held it aloft.

Kite, out of bounds, had to play again and this time he put his four-iron safely on to the green. However, he took a double-bogey six and Barr was content to take a five, which gave him a two-stroke cushion playing the last. Perhaps the Canadians took inspiration from a silver Canadian beaver, a trophy in the Royal and Ancient clubhouse. Neither Stewart nor Gibson had ever played the Old Course before.

'My previous biggest win? I think I won a pro-am sometime,' Stewart said. 'This is a big, big feather in Canada's cap.' And his. After Gibson, ranked 215th in the world, lost to Curtis Strange in the second match, Stewart ensured it was Canada's cup when he held his nerve against Fred Couples, the only surviving member of the American team who won the tournament 12 months ago.

In the final rubber it was not the 17th that proved decisive but the 16th. Stewart, who had established a lead with birdies at the first two holes, was bunkered but he got up and down brilliantly to save his par. Couples, odds on at the 16th to pull at least a stroke back, three putted, missing the second from 18 inches, and that left Stewart three strokes up with two holes to play. The Canadian could afford the luxury of a five at the Road Hole. In the semi-finals in the morning, England could not reproduce the fireworks of the first three days in which they did not lose a single match. Yesterday they were on the receiving end of a whitewash as the Americans got off to a swift and sure start. Mark Roe was on the back foot from hole one where he had a five to Kite's three.

There was a similar scenario in the second rubber. Couples had a birdie three at the first and Howard Clark, who had a 65 against Australia on Saturday, found Sunday morning a different proposition. Clark bogeyed the second, third and fourth holes and went to the turn in 39 to Couples's 34. In the final leg Barry Lane went out in 37 to Strange's 33, but he then rallied with birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th. He should also have birdied the 14th but missed a putt from three feet and finally was beaten by a stroke, 71 to 70.

The United States were performing high fives in front of the clubhouse before lunchtime and before learning the identity of their opponents for the afternoon's final. Canada defeated South Africa, the 5-1 co-favourites with Zimbabwe, 2-1. Stewart shot 70 to David Frost's 75 and in the second match Gibson also scored 70 to beat Wayne Westner. At that point it is possible they were drinking the bars in Canada dry, for Ernie Els's four-stroke victory over Barr in the final rubber was irrelevant. The losing semi-finalists each won pounds 31,666 and the Americans received pounds 50,000 a man to cushion the blow of seeing the Maple Leaf flying over the home of golf.

ALFRED DUNHILL CUP (Old Course, St Andrew's): Semi-finals: United States 3 England 0 (US names first): T Kite 69 bt M Roe 70, F Couples 68 bt H Clark 74, C Strange 70 bt B Lane 71. South Africa 1 Canada 2 (SA names first): D Frost 75 lost to R Stewart 70, W Westner 74 lost to R Gibson 70, E Els 68 bt D Barr 72. Final: United States 1 Canada 2 (US names first): T Kite 71 lost to D Barr 70, C Strange 67 bt R Gibson 74, F Couples 72 lost to R Stewart 71.

(Photograph omitted)

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