Unless, yesterday, you were French or German. One of the idiosyncrasies of the competition is that losing is no barrier to progression to the title, but winning can be. "Stupid," was the one-word summation of the situation in Group Three by the German captain, Sven Struver.
Struver and his colleagues, Alex Cejka and Thomas Gogele, had just appeared on Sky TV where they and their interviewer were oblivious to the fact that the day's results - wins for Germany and France over South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively - meant that the winners of the group will be decided by the southern African clash today. No wonder Scottish publicans have been protesting around the course against the exorbitant rates the satellite company are charging them.
Each team in the group has one win but while both South Africa, last year's winners, and Zimbabwe won by a score of 3-0 on Thursday, Germany and France both dropped a point in winning 2- 1 yesterday. For the slide-rule impaired, that means that the best the winner of the match between France and Germany can do is total five individual points. But whoever wins in the South Africa-Zimbabwe derby will have at least six individual points.
"It is disappointing," said Struver, "but we shouldn't feel bad. The good thing is that we have just beaten the defending champions. We can't win the trophy but we will just have to try and beat France and finish second in the group."
Only one stroke separated Germany and South Africa as two of the matches went into extra holes, including Struver's defeat of Ernie Els. Cejka could have taken his match against Retief Goosen further had not his six- footer at the last not stopped two inches short. At the time he did not know, and who could blame him, the implications of not keeping the chance of a 3-0 win alive.
Potentially, for a change, today's final round of qualifying matches could be relatively straightforward. Three groups feature a straight shootout while Australia hold the strongest hand in Group Four. Australia completed their second whitewash against Korea but can still be trumped by New Zealand if they win 3-0 today.
"We were in this situation a few years ago and got swept by the Kiwis," said the Aussie captain, Steve Elkington. "But we have a stronger team this time. Greg Norman isn't here."
America, who were not troubled by Japan, have not dropped a point so far but neither have their opponents today, Sweden. The Swedes looked to be repeating their 2-1 win over England from football's World Cup as Lee Westwood led Mathias Gronberg by three playing the 17th. But a bogey five from Westwood was answered with a birdie by Gronberg, whereupon the Swede saw his drive at the last bounce off the road and a spectator back in bounds.
His approach finished 10 feet away and Gronberg holed to square the match. Naturally, he birdied the first as well to clinch the win. Two successive whitewashes is England's worst performance in the event. "We have a chance against the States," the Swedish captain, Per-Ulrik Johansson, said. "They might feel the pressure and we have nothing to lose."
Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara both shot 70s, a score matched only by three others as conditions turned nasty. "We had all four seasons in one day and that's one of the things that makes this event so special," said O'Meara. John Daly completed the sweep beating Nobuo Serizawa 75-78.
"I got the job done," Daly said. "I started playing defensively, playing the man and not the course." Last year, Sweden beat a different American team in the semi-finals before losing to South Africa in the final.
"Everybody thinks that if you are the top-rated player it should be a cake walk to go right through this thing but that's not the case," O'Meara said. "The Swedes are fine players and we will have to play well to go through."
Scotland and Spain will decide Group Two after the home nation beat Ireland, while the Spanish only scraped through against China. Jose Maria Olazabal, with a 76, lost by one to Wu Xiang-Bing but Colin Montgomerie's conqueror, Zhang Lian-Wei, lost by seven to Miguel Angel Jimenez after an 83.
Montgomerie improved by a shot for a 72, which comfortably took care of Paul McGinley but, with Darren Clarke making birdie at the last two holes to turn the tables on Andrew Coltart, Scotland's win was only assured when Gary Orr took two putts from the Valley of Sin to beat Padraig Harrington by one.Reuse content