Spain won the 16th and final Alfred Dunhill Cup in its present format by making a successful defence of the trophy over the famous Old Course at St.Andrews. The Spanish side beat South Africa – whom they succeeded as champions – by 2-1 in a nail-biting final which saw Miguel Angel Martin emerge as the hero of the hour.
Martin, taking the place of Sergio Garcia this time around, conjured up a miraculous putt of Costantino Rocca-like proportions on the last green to take his tie with David Frost into extra time.
And when Frost three-putted the first sudden-death hole –missing from four feet after very nearly going out of bounds off the tee – the trophy was back in Spanish hands. Martin celebrated in style, vaulting the Swilcan Burn to wrap himself in the arms of team-mate Miguel Angel Jiménez, who had rushed from a victory over Retief Goosen by 70-71 to watch the last curtain-call of a tournament which has been a huge success since its inauguration in 1985.
As of next year, the current event will be replaced by the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, played on three St.Andrews courses in a Pro-Am format and worth #3.2 million.
However, the main protagonists at St.Andrews were determined that the 2000 tournament closed in spectacular fashion, and none more so than Martin, who arrived at St.Andrews with an indifferent record.
Both he and Frost double-bogeyed the 17th after landing on the road behind the green and Martin threw his visor to the ground in disgust moments later when his approach to the 18th struck the pin and that impact, coupled with back spin, contrived to take the ball back into the valley of sin.
Frost, safely on in two, then watched Martin’s emotions change dramatically when the Spaniard’s carbon-copy putt of Rocca’s at the Open Championship in 1995 had the same result. The ball hovered on the lip of the hole before dropping, leaving Martin dancing for joy and this time throwing the same visor high into the air in exultation.
With Jiménez securing one point, the final was delicately poised as in the last match, Ernie Els beat José Maria Olazábal 68-70. Everything hinged on Frost and Martin and it was the South African, who captained his side to victories in 1997 and 1998, who made the first mistake to allow the Spanish to join their victims and Australia (1985, 86) as the only nations to defend the trophy.
Olazábal was quick to praise the only member of the Spanish side who didn’t participate in last year’s triumph. He said: ‘I am very pleased. It’s been a great week for us and for Miguel with Sergio not being here this time. He might not be very big in stature but he has the heart of a lion and the way he won his match made it possible for us to win the cup. This is a very special format and it is nice to have won the last one.’
Martin admitted: ‘That was unbelievable. We both played very well but struggled on the 17th where we both made six. But that putt on the 18th was very, very good and I am very happy. This wipes away the memories of some of my disappointments here.’
Earlier in the day, Olazábal had performed heroics to overcome Argentina’s Angel Cabrera in the semi-finals, winning a match which seemed beyond him when Cabrera was four under par after the first five holes.
However the Spanish secured a 2-1 win to reach their second successive final, while the British challenge finally evaporated when Wales went down by the same score to South Africa. So ended a wonderful run for the Welsh, who did not contest the previous three Alfred Dunhill Cups.
Ian Woosnam, Phillip Price and David Park enjoyed a superb first three days in which they defeated England, Germany and then No.1 seeds Scotland, the last of which was a 3-0 whitewash over the host nation in Group I. Germany also distinguished themselves, beating the Scots 2-1 on Day One and beating England 3-0 on Saturday. However Wales’s 3-0 success over Scotland edged out the Germans.
In Group II, Goosen’s 19th hole win over New Zealand’s Greg Turner on Saturday ensured that the South Africans would progress, while in Group III Martin was again red-hot in beating Patrik Sjoland in the group decider on Saturday 69-70 with Olazábal again performing heroics to fight back and edge out Mathias Gronberg 72-74.
Argentina followed up wins over the United States and Japan with a tight 2-1 win over Australia in their final section tie, and for a long time against Spain in the semi-finals they seemed to have the edge. Yet in the end it was the Spanish speakers from Europe who prevailed against their linguistic cousins from South America and showed their mettle in that wonderful clash with South Africa. The Alfred Dunhill Cup could not have asked for a more fitting finale.Video Highlights of the Final