Presidents Cup carving its own niche in golf
Carving its own golf niche but still trailing the Ryder Cup in prestige, the Presidents Cup is quickly becoming more than simply a place for non-European players to enjoy a team format event.
The sixth edition of the biennial US-versus-Internationals matches begins here Thursday after a 17-17 draw in 2003 at South Africa in which Tiger Woods sank a 12-foot putt in near darkness in a deadlocked playoff with Ernie Els.
"That was probably one of the best, if not the best putt, I've ever made," Woods said. "With all of the circumstances - low light, downhill, downgrain, left to right, swale, 12-footer, everything on the line - I knocked it in somehow.
"There's absolutely no doubt about it. That (drama) was probably the best thing that could have happened to the Presidents Cup."
When Internationals captain Gary Player of South Africa and US captain Jack Nicklaus agreed in darkness to share the 2003 Cup, a dignity shone through that was sadly lacking in the infamous 1999 Ryder Cup premature US team celebration.
"The Presidents Cup is catching up," US veteran Davis Love said. "It's not there yet."
Woods finds a more friendly and familiar atmosphere at the Presidents Cup because most players are from the US tour rather than many European Tour players on Europe's Ryder Cup squads.
"They are two totally different atmospheres," Woods said. "When we play the Presidents Cup, it's basically like playing guys we face on tour every week. You have international players, but they are the same guys we see every week.
"When we play the Europeans, maybe half their team or less than half plays over here. We only see them in major championships and World Golf Championships and The Players. There's some of the guys you never see and never face.
"There's more camaraderie between the (Presidents Cup) teams and you don't have the animosity between the fans. When we play in Europe and we play here in the States in the Ryder Cup, there's definitely some angst, not necessarily with the players, but certainly in the fans."
The Ryder Cup began in 1927 between US and British teams and grew in stature in 1979 when the rivalry expanded to become a US-Europe showdown. Europeans are 6-3 with one drawn against US teams in the past 20 years.
The Presidents Cup began in 1994. US players own a 3-1-1 edge. Three of the first four were lopsided home wins, the exception in 1996 when Fred Couples dropped a 30-foot putt on the 17th hole of the last match for a US triumph.
Player has high hopes for the Presidents Cup after being turned off by what he considered over-the-top behavior at Kiwah Island's 1991 "War by the Shore", where the US men won after a worst-ever Ryder run of two losses and a draw.
"It's an event that will be bigger than the Ryder Cup because it entails the world," Player said. "I got disheartened when (in 1991) they said it was 'The War by the Shore'. Do they know what a war is compared to a golf match?
"We don't need all that flag waving."
The Internationals and Europe's Ryder Cup team are comparably ranked and there have been noticeable improvements on the International side in Asia and Latin America. More practice at the team format has also helped the Internationals.
"I'm feeling much more comfortable in that type of match play situation," Aussie Stuart Appleby said. "You need to be aggressive. It's about winning matches, not trying to shoot even par and hope someone else shoots worse."
Fiji's Vijay Singh, the only non-US player in every Presidents Cup, admits the event does not cross his mind often until the weeks before and it is easy to put it aside once the ball-striking is over.
"I look forward to playing it. During the week of the Presidents Cup and maybe the week prior, we're all fired up to play," Singh said. "But we don't think about it a month before, and two weeks after you've forgotten about it."
But more and more, those moments during the Presidents Cup matter greatly.
"It's pretty nerve wracking. You have a different kind of pressure." Singh said.
"It's pretty much like playing the last day of a major. There's a lot of pressure. You don't want to disappoint yourself and particularly anybody else."
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