Teams decide on a draw at Fancourt
After conferring with their teams in the gathering darkness on the third extra hole of sudden-death play-off between Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, captains Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus agreed to share the Presidents Cup. A more enthralling Presidents Cup script could not have been written. At the end of play the scores were tied on 17-all, after the US had led a spirited fight-back to take 7.5 of the 12 points in Sunday's singles matches. Woods and Els were chosen by their captains to take it from there and headed to the 18th tee for the first hole of sudden-death, with a string of team-mates and wives in tow. And this after Davis Love III, the most experienced man in the US team, fluffed a chip on the 18th hole and then failed to get up and down with his second attempt.
Woods and Els both made steady par fives on the 18th after missing the green with their second shots. Els then holed a 15-footer on the first green for another half and took the match to the par-three second hole. It was there that the match ended, Tiger Woods draining a 20-foot clutch putt for a par and Els a putt of half that length to equal him, before the captains decided the match could not continue in the gathering darkness. The bustle on the green was thick with intensity as first it appeared the US would retain the trophy and then that Els and Woods would be sent up the 18th once again with visibility waning fast. It was even suggested that the players all come back on Monday to force a result out of the match. But when Nicklaus emerged from a conference with his team offering Player the opportunity to share the Cup it was over. Amidst the drama of the closing moments it is easy to forget what was a gritty comeback from the US team after losing Saturday's four-balls matches 6-0.
Chris DiMarco said before the final day that the US would come back with a vengeance and he led by example to claim a point in one of the most crucial matches of the afternoon. DiMarco birdied the final three holes, the 17th with a 15-foot clutch putt, as he sealed a crucial point for the United States against Australia's Stuart Appleby, keeping the match alive. The much anticipated penultimate match between Woods and Els was over by the 15th, the World No. 1 overwhelming Els by 4 and 3. Els began the day as the only man in the field to have won all four of his matches in the three days of competition but showed nothing of the form which had brought him his earlier triumphs against a sharp-looking Woods. The 'Big Easy' was only up once in the match, but a bogey on the first hole from Woods was to be the only blemish on his card. After holing a 30-foot putt to halve the third hole in four, Els found himself two down just two holes later as Woods found his momentum with back-to-back birdies. The match made the turn with Woods three-up Els conceded the eighth hole and when the South African bogeyed the 12th the match was all but over. Woods's par on the 15th was enough to win the hole and take the match by 4 and 3, taking the eight-time major champion's record to three wins and two losses for the week. In the battle of the youngsters, 24-year-old Charles Howell III was not made to work very hard for his 5 and 4 win over Australia's 23-year-old Adam Scott. Scott started the day with three bogeys and two double bogeys to be seven over by the time he stepped onto the sixth tee, leaving Howell to help himself to a four hole advantage early on.
Mbeki dances a jig with Gary Player
Ernie Els was shaking from nerves, but South African presidentThabo Mbeki, who took up golf a year ago, was so excited about the astonishing tie between the International team and America that he danced a jig with Gary Player at the closing ceremony of thePresidents Cup at Fancourt on Sunday. "The rain has come after the golf has finished to bless ourcountry," Mbeki said as a steady drizzle fell over the Fancourt during the closing ceremony. "But the African sun took its own decision on this tournament, because it said that any outcome other than a tie would have been strongly unfair to both teams." "The sun made the correct decision," said Mbeki. Mbeki paid tribute to Nicklaus and his American team for their sportsmanship. "I want to thank them for the way they have playedthe game here," he said. "The rules state that the defending champions hold the cup in the event of a draw, but their's was an act of pure sportsmanship when they decided to share the Cup with us."
Nicklaus, heralded as the greatest golfer in history, said he had never experienced anything like the competition, the drama andthe cliff-hangerfinish of the Presidents Cup. "What a tournament," declared Nicklaus. "I have never seen anything like it. When Gary and I decided to step in when it became too dark, it was correct. We both agree that sharing the Cup was the right thing to do."