Jack can't believe Americans came back

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

MANASSAS, Va. -- If there is a trend in this Presidents Cup, it hasn't yet become apparent. And just when you think one might be emerging, it is swallowed up in a momentum shift.

About halfway through yesterday's four-ball matches, American captain Jack Nicklaus was worried.

"I was standing on the eighth green/ninth tee and we were at least a point down in five of the six matches," he said. "I wasn't too excited about what was going on, so I decided to run in and get a bite to eat and watch a couple of holes on TV.

"When I turned on the TV, in went a 20-footer, in went a 30-footer, in went a 10-footer and I said, 'Hey, I'm not going anywhere.' We started winning a few holes and made a rally."

In the end, the U.S. won three matches and the International team won three matches and that was good enough for Nicklaus.

"If anybody had said -- when the last team came through the ninth green -- that we would end up 3-3, I would have given you 10-to-1 odds. I would have been very pleased with 3-3."

Ironically, International captain Gary Player said more or less the same thing.

"Once the Americans started coming at us, I was worried," he said. "Momentum in this type of emotional matchup is so important. When you're out there on the copurse and the other team is making birdies from everywhere, sometimes you just feel like you don't have a chance. It's as much psychological as anything. We got to a point where we needed something to happen."

And something did happen. A thunderstorm moved in and forced an 80-minute weather delay.

"I was very happy to see the rain come in," Player said. "I was singing every rainy-day song I could think of (to help).

"The Americans had such momentum on their side that we really needed to get a breather to be able to step back and regroup. Prior to the delay, I would have settled for a one-hole lead at the end of the day in a heartbeat. I still feel we were a little bit on the fortunate side."

Now, after another closely-contested day has come and gone, the heavy lifting begins.

Ten matches, five this morning and five this afternoon, will complete the team portion of the competition. Tomorrow is the grand finale with 12 singles matches, those gut-wrenching individual tests where every player has to fend for himself.

"Who can tell what's going to happen but my gut tells me we are going to go right down to the wire on this thing, just the way we did two years ago in South africa," Player said. "And, after all, that's what we always hope for -- a tight match, competitive right to the end."

Canadian Mike Weir and his partner, Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who played so well Thursday, came plummeting back to earth yesterday against Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank. On Thursday, in a format that makes birdies hard to make, they had seven in 13 holes. Yesterday, in a format where birdies flow like water, they had only four.

NO PUTTS FOR WEIR

"The difference was we weren't making any putts," Weir said. "I think we played tee-to-green just fine but we couldn't seem to roll it right."

They're going back out this morning in foursomes again and maybe they'll be able to click again, this time against Davis Love and Stewart Cink in the morning's anchor match.

Nicklaus, who considers sportsmanship just about as important as winning, was somewhat irritated that the American fans were not acknowledging the good International team shots.

"I have no issue if people root for the American team," Nicklaus said, "but I want them to applaud and appreciate the good shots made by our opponents and guests. That's not the spirit Gary and I want to see in these matches."

Don't read any lack of competitiveness into those remarks. These two teams will be grinding it out with maximum intensity all weekend and, no doubt, some tears will flow when it's over.

We just don't know yet whose will be tears of joy and whose will be tears of pain.


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