DiMarco putt sinks Internationals

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

MANASSAS, Va. -- It took five years, 68 matches and nearly 1,200 competitive holes to identify the latest Presidents Cup championship team.

In the end, the long search came down to one man and one putt on the 18th hole at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. In golf, that's often the way championships are decided but when national pride is on the line, the weight on that man's shoulders is enormous.

At the most recent Presidents Cup, two years ago in South Africa, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els went to extra holes to try to decide it and couldn't. Darkness intervened. So the last time anyone hoisted the Cup in victory was at this very same golf course, in 2000 when the U.S. prevailed convincingly.

Yesterday, Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera already were playing an extra hole when Chris DiMarco and Stuart Appleby came to the 18th green. At that time, with the score at 17-15, the best the Internationals could hope for was another draw but they needed wins from both Cabrera and Appleby to make it happen.

When Appleby missed his 20-foot putt, DiMarco stepped up, wearing the expectations of his entire team.

"I don't know how I even took the putter back," DiMarco said. "I thought I might whiff I was so nervous. All I could think about was Fred Couples and how he made that same putt to beat Vijay.

"I knew he had the same exact putt as me because I watched it on the 13th tee. When I saw that, I knew we were going to win. It inspired me."

Overcoming his fears, DiMarco poured his putt into the centre of the hole and the crowd and his teammates went wild. The final score was 18 1/2-15 1/2 but that margin doesn't really reflect how close the margin of victory was.

The Couples putt 80 minutes before DiMarco's, virtually sealed at least a tie for the U.S. But the stubborn Internationals wouldn't go quietly.

Appleby and Cabrera, especially, battled right to the finish, matching great shots with their opponents down the stretch.

But, in the end, the difference was that three Americans birdied the 18th hole yesterday and it won them the Cup. In the only matches that made it to the 18th green, Couples, Mickelson and DiMarco all made birdies.

"You guys played hard," said International captain Gary Player, speaking to U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus, "and it came right down to the last hole, just the way we wanted it to, and your guys did just what you're supposed to do: Three guys birdies the 18th hole to win it."

After sitting out Saturday afternoon, Canadian Mike Weir was determined to get a point and he did, beating Scott Verplank on the 16th green, 3 and 2. But it didn't take away the bad taste of his team's defeat.

"I'm deflated," Weir said. "It's tough to take. I thought we were going to win today. But we never won a match on 18 and they won a few of them.

"It was great golf. I saw a lot of red, white and blue up there (on the scoreboard) early on. But we all battled back.

"Once Freddie made that putt on 18, that was a big blow. We all thought that, coming up 18, if Vijay could win, we'd be looking pretty good."

As is often the case in match play events, the rules were a little fuzzy in everyone's minds. That includes Mickelson, who thought that he had won the Cup for his team when he made his putt on 18 to defeat Cabrera. The look on his face when he was told to play on was classic.

"I thought that was it," Mickelson said. "I thought we had won because I'm an idiot and didn't read the rules of the game.

"Better yet, Captain Nicklaus told me on 15 there were no ties, but I still didn't get it."

They all get it now: Bragging rights for the next two years until the 2007 Presidents Cup comes to Canada for the first time at Royal Montreal Golf Club.


Videos

Photos