Royal Cup of tee

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The Presidents Cup has had the reputation of being the Ryder Cup's nice, clean-cut younger brother.

No "War on the Shore." No "Battle at Brookline." The Presidents Cup has "The Handshake."

Remember Presidents Cup captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player making nice and shaking hands after negotiating a draw in the gathering darkness in South Africa in 2003?

Great sportsmanship, everybody said. None of the ugliness and hard feelings that have been seen among players and fans in the Ryder Cup the last few years.

But that might be changed heading into the seventh edition of these biennial matches, which get underway Thursday at the Royal Montreal.

This will be the biggest golf event ever in Canada, bringing together a stellar cast of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh ... 17 of the top 26 players in the world golf ranking. And maybe it's getting a little edge to it.

The Americans, battered in both the Ryder and Presidents Cups since 2000, rode some alleged trash talk by Singh of the International team to victory in the last Presidents Cup two years ago at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club outside of Washington, D.C.

Singh was matched up against veteran Fred Couples for the Sunday singles matches.

Before the two got to the first tee, Singh apparently said the U.S. team needed to have a cart waiting by the 12th green, presumably because Singh would have finished Couples by that point and the veteran American would need a ride to the clubhouse.

Maybe Singh was kidding, if that's what he said.

Maybe not.

It didn't matter to the Americans. Word of Singh's comment got back to the rest of the U.S. team and they were off and running.

A little bit of Presidents Cup lore to add to its short history.

Couples, by the way, beat Singh, making a 21-footer on the 18th hole to win, a big moment for the Americans. The event was capped by American Chris DiMarco making a breaking 15-footer on 18 to defeat Stuart Appleby and clinch the victory, the Americans' first and only triumph in either of these team competitions since 2000 (the Americans are coming off an 18O to 9O dusting by the Europeans in last year's Ryder Cup.)

The Americans should have something to prove this week. They should be sick and tired of having to explain their lack of success in team play. They haven't won one of these team events on foreign soil since the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry, though Royal Montreal will be about as close to home turf as they are going to get.

The Blue Course, which hosted the Canadian Open in 2001, has undergone changes under the direction of Rees "The Open Doctor" Jones.

The "Reestoration" has seen the course lengthened (of course). The most significant change was to the routing with the 12th and 13th holes reversed; 12 is now a par-5 and 13 a par-3. The greens were remodeled to present three distinct "greens within a green."

The worry with any of these restoration projects is the original characteristics which made a course great in the first place are lost to the homogenous characteristics of modern course design, but unofficial host Mike Weir, who made a side trip to visit Royal Montreal during the Deutsche Bank tourney, said he liked what he saw.

"The course is certainly longer and the fairways are more generous than they used to be and they aren't so pinched in at the doglegs as I remembered them,"


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