Cup should get even better today

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

MANASSAS, Va. -- Chris DiMarco was a little perplexed by the question.

A guy had wondered if, after relying on partners for the past three days, it would be difficult to maintain the extraordinary quality of play when the Presidents Cup reverts to singles action today.

"In case you haven't noticed," he said, "we do that 51 weeks a year. I think we can adjust."

In the past, the Americans have almost always adjusted a little better than their opponents in these big match-play events. The theory goes that they don't play as much team golf as is played in the rest of the world. You wouldn't know it by some of the partnerships that were forged this week.

So, it's hard to tell really who's playing well and who is being dragged along by a hot teammate.

For example, DiMarco teamed up with Phil Mickelson for the Americans and they were captain Jack Nicklaus' most productive pair, scoring 3 1/2 of a possible four points. But if you separate that partnership, DiMarco was the kingpin. Mickelson was happy just to be along for the ride.

On a lesser level, Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank were winners of 2 1/2 points but they were stalled yesterday, buried by Retief Goosen and Adam Scott. But Verplank clearly was the senior partner in that alliance, rolling in putts and hitting precise iron shots all over the golf course.

Verplank gets Mike Weir today, who also was a part of an alliance with Trevor Immelman. Immelman was brilliant on Thursday but faded after that. Any success they achieved was as a result of Weir, who has no quit in him. He engineered a near-miraculous comeback that ended in defeat on the 18th hole yesterday morning against Davis Love and Stewart Cink.

For his efforts, Weir was asked to take a seat yesterday afternoon but, had he been paired with a more productive partner, that would have been an unlikely event.

"I'm part of a team," he said. "That's all there is to it."

Anyone who knows Weir will expect nothing but an in-your-face performance today. No matter how calmly he took his sentence yesterday afternoon, you know he'll be trying to make somebody pay today.

In trying to assess today's potential, you need only look at the bottom end of Nicklaus' team to get a sense that this time, the Americans may not be able to respond as they have in the past.

David Toms, a week removed from the cardiac ward after being pulled off the golf course in Pennsylvania with a rapid heartbeat, has not played up to his ability and hasn't achieved even one point in these matches.

Likewise, Kenny Perry has been a colossal bust and has admitted that he is playing horribly. Hard to imagine that being preparation for a big day today. Fred Couples expressed the feeling that he had been "outclassed" on the golf course Thursday, playing as Tiger Woods' partner. Davis Love has been a bit of a load for his partners this week, too, though he did milk Cink's putter for a win yesterday.

On the other side, the younger International team has most of its complement playing at least decent golf with some of them playing as well as they ever have.

Scott and Goosen have been the best players in this event. U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, easily the comeback story of this year, has been a tiger on the course, rolling in putts from different area codes. And Stuart Appleby, who somehow managed only to win a half-point all week, has been just about as impressive.

"I don't know if anybody has played better than this guy," Woods said of Appleby. "He made three putts of over 30 feet for par this morning, a couple this afternoon."

Likewise, Tim Clark has been a giant-killer as well.

What it all boils down to is that the United States, unlike past events here at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, is going to have its hands full this afternoon. This is an International team hitting on most of its cylinders.

Whatever happens, it's been a three-day birdie fest under the most stressful of conditions. And today, they turn up the heat.


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