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Presidents Cup catching up with Ryder Cup

The more established Ryder Cup has all the tradition, but the infant Presidents Cup came of age on Sunday with an unrivalled finish of high drama and intense emotion at Fancourt's Links course.

Four days of roller-coaster golf, featuring shots of breath-taking quality on a brutally tough par-73 layout, finally ended with the United States and the Internationals agreeing to share the trophy in the gathering gloom.

World number one Tiger Woods, with nerves jangling, and local favourite Ernie Els, with legs shaking, had squared three holes of a sudden-death playoff in a bid to decide the fifth edition of the team competition.

Both players had to sink high-pressure putts simply to stay in the match before captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player agreed it was too dark to continue.

Following protracted and, at times, heated discussion between captains, players and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, the International team accepted the U.S. offer for the Cup to be shared.

"It's the most unbelievable event the game of golf has ever seen," said Nicklaus, who is widely regarded as the greatest player in golfing history.

"You had a team match where one teams leads the first day, the next team leads the second day, the other team leads a third day and, going to the last, the other team is leading.

"And then we had a tie."

TROPHY SHARED

Nicklaus made his offer for the trophy to be shared soon after the Internationals, having realised the Cup would be retained by the U.S. as the holders, insisted they would return to the course on Monday to complete the playoff.

It was sporting theatre of high-octane drama that no sane person would ever attempt to script, and the ultimate agreement to share the reward was warmly accepted by all the players.

"I think it's the perfect decision," said Woods, who had to hole a very difficult, breaking putt from 15 feet at the third playoff hole - the par-three second - for the U.S. to stay alive.

"To have two guys decide the fate of the whole team in extra holes like that, I don't think any of the sides felt comfortable with that to begin with."

Els had to follow Woods with a testing six-foot putt for par at the third extra hole and, once the ball dropped, Nicklaus realised the match had to finish.

"When Ernie made that putt, I thought it was absolutely perfect. I don't think there was a player on either side that wanted to see either person miss their putt," he said.

"That is really the spirit in which these matches have been played all week. I think we'll carry that spirit away from here and I think it will enrich the lives of all these guys forever."

MAJESTIC MOUNTAINS

Golfing moments like these, that unfolded beneath the majestic Outeniqua Mountains in South Africa's Eastern Cape, could never happen at the Ryder Cup.

The biennial showdowns between the U.S. and Europe, especially in recent years, have a more intense edge about them that, on occasions, has gone too far.

One reason is that not all the players competing at a Ryder Cup know each other that well, and the gap between the PGA and European Tours can feel palpably as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.

At the Presidents Cup, though, it is very different. Most of the Americans and the Internationals are PGA Tour regulars and, in many cases, are near-neighbours in Florida.

The Presidents Cup is traditionally fought hard but in a much more relaxed atmosphere than the Ryder Cup, as American Davis Love III explained on Sunday.

"The Ryder Cup has gotten a little over the top, and we've seen that in the last few years, " he said.

"At this tournament, we've stressed that we want these matches to be played fairly. That's the way it ended, and that shows the world that we are going to play these matches for fun, for the love of the game.

"We are not going to beat each other's brains out over it."

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