MONTREAL – Few will long remember which squad prevails in the 2007 Presidents Cup.
For one thing, the Presidents Cup isn't the Ryder Cup. For another, there happens to be this other sport in America which will seize most of the attention when the Presidents Cup concludes on Sunday.
So what? The 2007 Presidents Cup will be remembered for Woody Austin making a splash, and we're not talking about the three closing birdies which secured a key half point on an otherwise miserable afternoon for Uncle Sam.
Give Austin his due. Those birdies spelled the difference between a one- and two-point advantage heading into Saturday's play – the U.S. is leading the International team 7 to 5 – and may prove to be the difference between winning and losing.
There are always heroes in this kind of competition. There will be more on Saturday and Sunday, on both sides. But Woody Austin, 43, made a much more pivotal contribution than providing a half point. He provided humor.
It happened on the par-4, 14th hole. Austin, paired with David Toms in the best-ball format, was facing a nearly impossible shot from near the bank of the pond, the ball a few inches under the surface.
Any sane individual would have taken a drop. Nobody has ever accused Austin of being sane. Austin was skeptical but his caddie, Brent Henley, kept insisting that he give it a try. So Austin put on his rain gear and went in.
"The whole idea of the shot was just to try to get it to the bank," Austin explained later. "Because I felt from the bank, I had a chance to make three." He figured that if he could, at least, advance the ball five yards – maybe even five feet – he might be able to pitch in for a birdie.
It was not to be. The ball did not come out of the water. Worse yet, after he swung, Austin stepped on a rock and lost his balance. Down went Austin, as Howard Cosell might have said, his face into the water. He was soaked.
It was impossible not to laugh, and that includes his fellow Americans. The TV showed a shot of Jim Furyk with a hat over his face, trying to keep from cracking up. Captain Jack Nicklaus, in announcing the pairings for Saturday morning, referred to Austin as Jacques Cousteau.
"I'm going to hear about it for the next five years," Austin remarked.
Wrong, Woody. You're going to hear about it for as long as you play professional golf. Maybe longer.
"I have a feeling that he will be hearing about that for the rest of his life," Nicklaus said. "He'll be kidded about it, have fun with it, and he'll laugh about it and remember it for the rest of his life."
Who knows? Maybe they'll name the pond after him. They named one at Torrey Pines in San Diego after Bruce Devlin.
For years, Austin was known as the guy who once banged a putter against his head. Now he'll be remembered for this.
A Tiger Woods drive … phenomenal.
A Woody Austin dive … priceless.
Thank goodness. We sometimes tend to forget that this is only a golf match and nothing more. It's much worse, of course, at the Ryder Cup.
Austin took the whole episode extremely well.
"I don't think it was really that hard for me because … I laughed about it on the green," he said. "I can only tell you how much the competitive fire burns in me. It didn't douse it. I was still fired up and ready to go."
Was he ever. He and Toms, dueling with Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini, were two down after 14. After Austin's birdies at 16 and 17, the match was all square. His four-foot putt for birdie at 18, his eighth of the day, came after Sabbatini converted from six feet.
"He's actually just been terrific in both matches," said Nicklaus, referring to Austin, who garnered a half point on Thursday when he was paired with Phil Mickelson in the alternate shot format against Mike Weir and Vijay Singh.
"Woody is a character, as you know, but he's just a great competitor. It just kills him to not play well or not hit the right shot or not do the right thing."
He'll even take a dive for the team.
- Woody Austin