The United States withstood a spirited assault from the Rest of the World team to successfully defend the UBS Cup with a 14-10 winning margin at Kiawah Island’s Cassique Course, South Carolina, USA.
Rest of the World Captain Gary Player led from the front with a convincing 6 and 5 victory over rival Captain Arnold Palmer in the top match, Scotland’s Sam Torrance and Peter Senior of Australia added vital points and John Chillas in particular put up a spirited performance in halving his match with the formidable Hale Irwin, but the United States team proved too strong in taking the singles 7 ½ - 4 ½.
That included the notable scalp if Colin Montgomerie, who lost a singles match for the first time against the Americans when he suffered a 5 and 4 defeat by Fred Couples.
But the unheralded Chillas was undoubtedly the man of the match as far as the Rest of the World team were concerned. The former club pro from Glenbervie made a huge impact in South Carolina after qualifying for the team after finishing third on the European Seniors Tour Order of Merit.
On the opening day, partnering his European Seniors Tour colleague Carl Mason, they won their foursomes but in the singles Irwin looked to be too strong an opponent. A winner of three US Open titles and the most prolific winner ever to grace the seniors game with 40 victories on the US Champions Tour, Irwin was one of the US teams toughest competitors but Chillas held his own in a match that ebbed and flowed, eventually birdieing the 17th to level the match and finish all square.
“The man of the match for our team was John Chillas,” declared Rest of the World Captain Gary Player. “People here were saying they had never heard of him but there are so many good players overseas who don’t play the US Tour and John won one match and to tie the best player on the US team in Hale Irwin was a marvellous effort.”
“Hale didn’t play up to his best today and gave me an opportunity to get a halved match for which I am delighted,” said Chillas. “The match swung back and forth, we both got up and it was a good match.”
His opponent was full of praise for Chillas. “We may have never heard of John and I hope we don’t again!” quipped Irwin. “He is a wonderful player and I didn’t play too badly myself. It was a good match. He was everything I could have handled today.”
After Player won the top match, a 5 and 3 victory by Sam Torrance over Curtis Strange, his opposing captain in the Ryder Cup at the Belfry two years ago, began to turn the tide towards the Rest of the World team but a victory by Tom Kite and a halved match by Ray Floyd proved pivotal as the momentum swung towards the US team.
First Kite, after a colossal match with Rodger Davis, birdied the 17th to edge a one hole victory and then Floyd, three down with three to play, won each of the closing holes to secure a valuable half with Mark McNulty. With Jay Haas and Craig Stadler, who started with an eagle and then five birdies in the first eight holes, already recording wins over Barry Lane and Ian Woosnam respectively the US team were almost over the line.
Cassique course designer Tom Watson edged them closer with a one hole victory over Sandy Lyle before Scott Hoch took them over the line with a 2 and 1 win over Carl Mason.
In the last two matches Montgomerie, undefeated in the singles in seven Ryder Cups and one previous UBS Cup against the United States, was no match for Couples as the American rolled in putt after putt as he picked up six birdies and an eagle in 15 holes to secure a comfortable 5 and 3 victory.
“I’ve done that myself in these competitions and at the receiving end it is unbelievable,” said Montgomerie. “When you run into a steamroller you are going to get beaten.”
Fittingly in the anchor match, Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer, rival Ryder Cup Captains in the Ryder Cup in September, halved their tie to take the overall score to 14-10, Sutton birdieing the last and conceding Langer’s birdie putt from five feet in a sporting gesture befitting this event.
“My guys played really good golf,” said winning Captain Arnold Palmer. “Today was the best example of how well they played. The camaraderie between both teams is fantastic but with all that good friendship, when you see them out there playing they are really competing and I love that.”