The United States justified their status as strong favourites to lift the first EMC2 World Cup by overcoming hosts Argentina, represented by European Tour stalwarts Eduardo Romero and Angel Cabrera, in a thrilling tournament at Buenos Aires Golf Club.
Tiger Woods and David Duval, ranked Number One and Four respectively in the world, triumphed with a 34 under par total of 254, three ahead of the home team with Scotland the best of the Europeans in fifth spot.
Woods and Duval fired a closing four under par 68 in the final foursomes – a score matched by the Argentines, who at one stage gave their huge army of supporters a tantalising glimpse of a possible home victory when the gap was cut to one shot with nine holes remaining.
Romero had just rolled in an eagle putt at the ninth hole while, in the final match, Woods attempted a risky escape shot from the edge of the lake at the same hole and succeeded only in hitting the ball into the water. The resulting bogey left the USA leading on 32 under with Argentina – taking advantage of a three shot swing – on 31 under.
However Romero and Cabrera proceeded to bogey the 13th and were unable to birdie the long 14th and with Woods sinking a massive putt for a two on the 11th, the contest was effectively over.
Paraguay, who closed with a 67, took third place with Japan (68) in fourth while Paul Lawrie and Gary Orr shot a 70 in the toughest conditions of the week for a total of 268, one ahead of New Zealand’s Greg Turner and Frank Nobilo, who had led for two rounds but collapsed with a last round 80.
The Argentinian side, who had shared the lead for the first two days after rounds of 57 and 67, sensed victory going into the back nine but recognised their fate four holes from home.
Romero, the senior partner of the team and an inspirational figure all week, said: “We wanted to win but to finish second with so many big name players here is a good position. After that tremendous eagle I thought we had an opportunity to win but it was not to be.”
Cabrera added: “Second place is really good. We have worked hard for this. After the ninth I also thought we had an opportunity to win but we lost it at the par five where we could not make a birdie.”
Woods and Duval shared 1,140,903 euro (£695,748) for their week’s work, shooting scores of 61, 65, 60 and 68 in the revised format employed for the first time. The switch to two days of four ball better ball and two days of foursomes was met with approval by the 24 teams and the enormous galleries who turned out to support Argentina’s biggest golfing pageant.
Duval, who played the more significant role during the four days, enthused: “I’ve had a wonderful week. It was even more fun than I imagined coming down here and playing with Tiger. The golf course was spectacular and the scene was just amazing. Just a wonderful week.”
Woods, who defended the title he won with Mark O’Meara last year, chipped in: “The fans were absolutely incredible and that’s the most important thing. This has been a fantastic week golf-wise, but also being able to play with my buddy David has been a lot of fun. I would love to team up with him again.”
Argentina, despite the enormous pressure, rose to the occasion and their opening rounds of 57 and 67 were matched by the Kiwis. Both were then overtaken by the United States, who dovetailed magnificently in the third round to shoot a better blal score of 60 to open up a three stroke lead.
Scotland, with rounds of 64, 69, 65 and 70 finished a creditable fifth to share 131,203 euro (£80,011) and Lawrie commented: “We played a lot of really good stuff but both make too many mistakes today. Overall I enjoyed it. The format is a lot better.”
Orr, making his debut in the event, added: “It’s been a big success in Argentina. The crowds are the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable I’ve ever played in front of. They have been starved of top class golf and overall it’s been a great week.”
Four other European nations finished in the top ten behind the United States. Spain, Germany and Sweden all finished with 18 under par aggregates of 270 to tie for seventh place with Ireland, the 1997 winners, slipped back with a final 75 to tie Canada for tenth on 281. Wales were 15th, England 16th, France 20th and Finland 21st.
Mathias Grönberg, who partnered Pierre Fulke, paid the Argentinian galleries a compliment by saying: “I love playing here. This is my fourth visit to Argentina and I’ve enjoyed both the format and the experience. Unfortunately Pierre and I didn’t make enough birdies to get into contention.”
McGinley added: “This is one of my favourite events of the year and the crowds have been fantastic. Padraig (Harrington) and I just didn’t quite make the most of our chances in the better ball on days one and three and we had too much to do.”