1998 Presidents Cup
Royal Melbourne Golf Club
Black Rock, Victoria, Australia
December 11-13, 1998

International Team Wins Presidents Cup

iger Woods against Greg Norman was only for show, and so was just about every other match Sunday in the Presidents Cup. Two hours before the final putt was conceded, the champagne already was pouring for the International team.

Call it the Massacre in Melbourne.

“They played some of the most unbelieveable golf,” said U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus. “Wow.”

Relentless from the start, determined to the end, the International team won its first Presidents Cup on a rainy Sunday at Royal Melbourne Golf Club that the Americans couldn’t leave soon enough.

Not even Woods’ 1-up victory over Norman could keep the United States from its worst loss in the history of match play.

International 20 1/2, United States 11 1/2.

“We creamed them,” said Steve Elkington.

Craig Parry, who pulled off one of several stunning shots that carried the International team to a 14 1/2-5 1/2 lead after two days, steamrolled past Justin Leonard for a 5 and 3 victory. Thirty minutes later, Nick Pricepolished off David Duval 2 and 1, and the celebration was on.

“We had a sour taste in our mouths from last time,” Parry said. “We wanted to have champagne in our mouths tonight.”

Pour the biggest drink for Shigeki Maruyama, the might mite from Japan who won the hearts of the Australian gallery and carried the International team by winning all five of his matches. Only Mark O’Meara in 1996 has gone 5-0 in the Presidents Cup.

“It wasn’t a question of beating America,” Price said. It was a question of winning that Cup. We want that trophy.”

Some of the best matches of the day didn’t even matter – Woods holding off a late charge by Norman, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh playing to a draw and Mark O’Meara winning 1-up over Stuart Appleby.

International captain Peter Thomson described the U.S. team as the “greatest collection of golfers in the world” during the opening ceremonies.

Not this week. And particularly not at Royal Melbourne.

Until Sunday, the worst loss in U.S. history was 16 1/2-11 1/2 to Europe in the 1985 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, which turned out to be the start of European domination in those matches. Could the Presidents Cup be headed down the same path?

“We came in here as underdogs and came out showing the force of International golf,” Norman said.

It was vindication for an International team that had lost the first two Presidents Cup, and proof that moving outside the United States does make a difference.

“We used to think golf was only played in the United States,” Nicklaus said. “We didn’t even invent it. I’m not even sure how well we play it anymore.”

Despite the move to Australia, both sides said these matches would not take on the war-like mentality of the Ryder Cup, such as America’s “War on theS hore” win in 1991 at Kiawah Island, S.C.

No worries.

The United States barely managed to put up a fight, despite having the top four players in the world rankings and eight of the top 15 on their side.

“It’s never fun to lose,” said Mark Calcavecchia, who cried after the 1991 Ryder Cup. “But if you’re going to lose to anybody, I’d rather lose to these guys rather than the Europeans.”

And lose they did, in a way few would have imagine.

From the time Frank Nobilo sank a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th to give the International team its first point of the matches on Friday, the Americans were never in the game.

They needed a miracle on Sunday and instead got the same old story: putts breaking away from the cup at the last minute, the International putts falling right in the heart.

Parry, who grew up in Melbourne and has played the course under every imaginable condition, never trailed in his match against Leonard and took control in typical fashion. After Leonard hit a wedge to three feet on the fifth hole, Parry dunked a 20-footer, and all Leonard could manage was to halve the hole.

Parry made another 20-foot birdie hole on the sixth, then went 3-up on the next hole when Leonard three-putted from about 30 feet.

Right behind, Duval was tasting a similar fate.

He had a 4-foot birdie putt on the fifth to square his match with Price, but it somehow slid by on the left. Price went 2-up on the seventh with a 25-foot birdie putt and never looked back.

Duval made only two birdies, both on par-5s, and conceded the match when yet another 20-footer was off line.

Price gave a high-five to his caddie, threw his ball into the crowd and hugged assistant captain Wayne Grady before shaking hands with Nicklaus, a losing captain once again.

Nicklaus was in charge of the U.S. team when it became the first to lose a Ryder Cup on American soil. These matches were played on Thomson’s hometurf, and he was beaming.

“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Thomson said.

Thomson melded together a team that came from all over the world, from Japan to Fiji to Paraguay, and six players from Down Under.

It may have started two years ago in a cabin at the Robert Trent Jones course, where the International team had an emotional meeting and vowedthat next time the Presidents Cup would be different.

And it was – different country, different outcome.

The biggest surprise was Maruyama, whose list of victims this week included Woods and Couples, Duval and Phil Mickelson. His perfect week ended with a 3 and 2 victory over John Huston.

“Maruyama has been outstanding,” Thomson said. “He got an enormous reception when he walked on to the tee. He’ll get a bigger one tonight when we settle down to have a drink.”

The Americans had no excuses and offered none.

“They just played so well,” Duval said.

The United States has been through this before. A year ago at Valderrama, the Americans were upset by Europe in the Ryder Cup in matches that came down to which team could read the greens, which team could make the putts.

Once again, the Americans were helpless, hopeless and cupless.