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International upset would spark Presidents Cup interest

The SportsXchange

The International team in the Presidents Cup hopes history repeats itself.

In 1987, the European team was winless on American soil in the Ryder Cup, and the matches were scheduled for Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, the home of Jack Nicklaus, who was the U.S. captain that year.

Spain's Seve Ballesteros led the Euros to a 15-13 victory and then rubbed it in when he brought an oversized magnum of champagne onto the putting green in front of the clubhouse and sprayed his teammates with the bubbly.

"Seve convinced us that we could beat the Americans," Nick Faldo said.

The Ryder Cup, dominated by the Americans for the first 60 years, was the same thereafter. The U.S. still holds a 25-12-2 lead in the series, but the Euros are 9-4-1 since 1987.

The Internationals, trailing 7-1-1 in the Presidents Cup and without a victory on U.S. soil, need a new Seve this week when the event comes to Muirfield Village.

Adam Scott, although his demeanor is the opposite of that of the late, flamboyant Ballesteros, might be their man.

"I think the Cup loses any credibility whatsoever if (the Internationals) don't start winning soon," said Scott, who earlier this year became the first Australian to win the Masters and will be counted on by captain Nick Price to be a team leader.

"It's essentially an exhibition (right now), it's not a competition. That's what it's shown the last four times, I'd say. I think it's crucial. We have to win this year. It looks like an exhibition and it has little relevance (to the public). And that's not good, because it's a great event."

Price will have to do it with a team short on Presidents Cup experience.

The 12-man International team features seven rookies. Only Scott, Ernie Els of South Africa and Angel Cabrera of Argentina played in more than one of the previous nine competitions.

Major champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa are part of the International squad, and one of the rookies, Jason Day of Australia, proved to be a major player but as yet has no hardware.

Price is happy with his other rookies: Branden Grace of South Africa, Graham DeLaet of Canada, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Richard Sterne of South Africa, Marc Leishman of Australia and Brendon DeJonge of Zimbabwe, the last two his captain's picks.

The more experienced American team features Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan.

Two of captain Fred Couples' rookies are major champions Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, and two others, Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas, are FedEx Cup champions.

"To be honest, I think we have got a really strong team," said Price, who played in five Presidents Cups, including 1998 at Royal Melbourne, when the Internationals claimed their only victory. "All of these guys have had some really good finishes this year. They have played well in the majors.

"So I'm very happy with our team. It's a team made up of quite a few rookies, but what they lack in experience I think they will make up for this enthusiasm."

Price also played in the most memorable Presidents Cup, in 2003 at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate in George, South Africa, where the teams battled to a 17-17 tie.

Playing Kenny Perry in a crucial singles match, Price twice rallied from 3 down to square the match heading to the final hole. There, he missed a short birdie putt that would have won his match and given the Internationals a victory.

As he walked off the green, Price snapped his putter in half in anger.

"It was totally unintentional," he said. "But it showed how much I cared."

Woods beat Els, 4 and 3, in singles, but when the teams were tied at the finish, captains Nicklaus and Gary Player sent their aces back out in an effort to break the deadlock.

After both players carded pars on the first two extra holes, Woods holed a 15-foot putt for par that he punctuated with a fist pump, but Els answered with a five-footer for another par before darkness made it impossible to continue.

"It was the most nerve-racking moment I've ever had in golf," Woods admitted.

Said Els: "The first time ever I felt my legs shaking on the golf course."

For once, the Presidents Cup looked like and even felt like the Ryder Cup.
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