In 1953 U.S. industrialist John Jay Hopkins created the World Cup
in hopes of staging "a competition that would bring together the
world's greatest players in order to establish a tradition of
international goodwill through the game of golf." Even an
idealist such as Hopkins couldn't have imagined the scene at the
Buenos Aires Country Club on Sunday evening, when, at the end of
the 46th edition of the World Cup, a giddy David Duval seized the
microphone and interrupted the trophy ceremony to lead the
raucous crowd in chants of "Ar-gen-TEE-na! Ar-gen-TEE-na!
Ar-gen-TEE-na!" That this wild week ended on such a boisterous
note was only fitting. If the soundtrack to most golf tournaments
is Muzak, this World Cup was set to a pulsating tango beat.
Duval and his partner, Tiger Woods, made up the most glamorous
U.S. team since 1967, when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer won
their fourth Cup in the span of five years, but Duval and Woods
were merely the costars in a drama that consumed a nation. Most
Argentines know golf only as the name of a ketchup-mayonnaise
sauce they put on their sandwiches, but local heroes Eduardo (El
Gato) Romero and Angel Cabrera produced such inspiring golf--of
the nonedible variety--that the crowd was moved to sing futbol
fight songs as early as Thursday afternoon.
The Argentines battled the Americans down to the final putt,
igniting in their countrymen the kind of passion that usually
comes with first love. If this wasn't the most important golf
tournament of the year, it was certainly the most spirited. "It
was even more fun than I imagined coming down here," Duval said
on Sunday night. "The scene was amazing. I've never seen some of
the things that occurred, just like today, on the 18th green."
In the end, the reputations of both Duval and John Hopkins's Cup
were enhanced. Duval carried the U.S. team to a three-stroke
victory under a new format: four rounds of team medal play,
divided between alternate shot and better-ball. "What were we, 34
under par?" Woods asked when it was all over. "He was 32, I was
December 18, 2000
The dazzling competition gave a shot of credibility to the World
Cup, which this year was brought under the umbrella of the glitzy
World Golf Championships. Though the adjective World seems to be
grafted to virtually every tournament these days, the World Cup
deserves the designation. It has visited 23 countries in its
history, and this year's 24-team field included duos from such
unlikely places as Malaysia and Finland.
Certainly, the Cup was an appropriate venue for the grand finale
of Woods's eight-week world tour, during which he teed it up at
eight events across four continents. Woods arrived in Buenos
Aires on Dec. 5 looking a bit the worse for wear--"tired and in
not a very good mood," according to the Buenos Aires Herald, one
of the dozens of media outlets that staked out the airport and
then Woods's hotel. Though Nicklaus was the best player in the
world when he traveled to Buenos Aires for the 1971 World Cup,
his celebrity was confined to golf circles. Woods's appearance
was being trumpeted as one of the biggest things ever to happen
to South American sport, non-futbol division. Duval, meanwhile,
was dismissed in most local press accounts as el companero de
Tiger, but before long he was the star of the show.
At the packed pretournament press conference on Dec. 6, Woods's
eyelids were at half-mast and his famous smile seemed to have
been held up in customs, but Duval was at his most relaxed and
animated. At one point a local reporter asked Duval for his
thoughts on playing alternate shot, considering that "the
American team at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup didn't have a
good performance with this format."
"Maybe you've read something I haven't," Duval replied playfully,
"because I thought we won seven out of eight matches in the
alternate shot at the Presidents Cup."
"What about the Ryder Cup?"
With a laugh, Duval said, "I believe we won that, too. We're
holding both cups, so how could we have done too bad?"
"Yeah, but Tiger lost the four...."
"He didn't play with me."
At this final rejoinder the charmed Argentine press corps burst
into applause. This kind of spirit spilled into the next day's
hotly anticipated pairing of the U.S. and Argentina, which was
looking for its first World Cup victory since Antonio Cerda and
the great Roberto De Vicenzo took the inaugural competition.
Romero called the thunderous ovation they received on the 1st tee
one of the highlights of his career, but if anyone should have
felt overwhelmed, it was the course marshals.
The thousands of fans following the match treated every hole as
if it were the 72nd at the British Open, storming under the ropes
and onto the fairway to get a better look at their heroes. (Other
fans climbed the electrical towers around the course.) That day's
Argentine papers reported the country's 163rd death related to
soccer hooliganism, but this was a joyous, good-natured crowd, as
courteous to the Americans as it was voluble for the home team.
Led by the deft play of Romero--known as the Cat thanks to the
whiskers on his upper lip and the nine lives he seems to have
with his wedges--the Argentines birdied 10 of the first 11 holes
and went on to shoot a scorching better-ball score of 57, which
tied them for the lead with a pair of amiable Kiwis, Frank Nobilo
and Greg Turner. Woods struggled throughout the day and was
in-pocket on two holes (in the lake on number 12, out of bounds
on 17), but Duval kept the U.S. in the game, putting beautifully
and attacking the short, fast course relentlessly, especially on
the par-5s. Duval rolled in a 15-footer for eagle at the 543-yard
6th hole, punctuating his putt with an uncharacteristic fist
pump, then holed a spectacular chip from behind the par-5 14th
green for another big bird. By the time he sank one last long
birdie putt at 18, the screams of "TYE-gehr!" had in large part
been replaced by ones for "DAY-veed!"
"I was a jockey today," Woods said after the U.S.'s 61 (Duval had
an unofficial 62 on his own ball), which left the Americans in a
three-way tie for fourth. "I just rode my horse all day."
Though the U.S. and Argentina were competing against the course,
not each other, there was much clucking about the home team's
"victory"--had it been match play, Argentina would have won 4 and
2. Best headline the next day: AL TIGRE SE LO COMIO EL GATO (The
Cat Ate the Tiger).
The atmosphere cooled off considerably during Friday's
alternate-shot play, as the U.S. and Argentina teed off half an
hour apart, splitting up the crowd. Woods actually showed up this
time, igniting the Americans' round with an insane flop shot from
behind the 12th green, allowing Duval to save an unlikely par
with a clutch putt. The Yanks followed with four birdies in a
row, the backbone of a bogeyless 65. Duval was again the MVP,
rolling in a mile of putts. "All I needed to do was hit the ball
on the flat surface, and he made the putts," said Woods. "Wasn't
Such cohesive play owed much to the easy camaraderie of these
onetime rivals. There was much yukking as Duval and his companero
carried on a four-day dialogue on fishing, snowboarding--"He's
trying to get me into it," Woods said, "hopefully this
winter"--and whatever else it is that twentysomething
multimillionaires discuss. One thing they didn't bother talking
much about was strategy, even such basic details as how the
alternate-shot duties would be split. On Friday, Woods reported,
"On the 1st tee I said, 'You know what: Why don't you go ahead?'
He was like, 'O.K., that's fine.' That's how much discussion we
Romero and Cabrera, who both grew up in humble circumstances in
the town of Cordoba, have an even tighter bond, forged during
years of practicing and traveling together. Cabrera, 15 years
younger and inches thicker in the middle than the 46-year-old
Romero, whom he is pushing for the title of Argentina's top
player, goes by the nickname El Pato (the Duck), a reference to
the way he waddles down the fairway. Both men are in the Top 50
in the World Ranking, and they make a brilliant combination:
Romero is a methodical finesse player, Cabrera a passionate big
hitter with a fondness for eagles. On Friday they jamon y huevo'd
it to a strong 67 to remain in first place, though the round did
not get off to an auspicious start when they double-bogeyed the
1st hole. "We apologize to the people for making them suffer,"
Romero said, only partly in jest.
The U.S. went into the third round's better-ball in third place,
two back of Argentina, but it was only a matter of time before
Woods imposed his will on the tournament. On Saturday he was at
his overpowering best in blustery conditions--on the par-5 9th he
hit driver-eight-iron to set up an eagle--and as Duval continued
his fine play, the U.S. hung up a 60, the low round of the day.
Romero and Cabrera couldn't keep pace, shooting a 65 to fall
The host team has won the World Cup eight times, and even though
Romero tried to downplay national expectations--saying, "I had
more pressure 15 years ago, when I had only two pesos in my
pocket and I was playing for 150,000"--come Sunday he was a
fist-pumping, foot-stomping picture of emotion. The U.S. and
Argentina traded birdies in the final round, with Duval and Woods
adding a stroke to their lead, but then came a dramatic
three-shot swing at the 9th. A gorgeous approach by Cabrera and
clutch 12-footer by Romero led to an Argentine eagle, pushing
them to -31. Moments later, after Duval had pushed his drive to a
steep, mucky bank at the edge of the hazard, Woods tried a risky
recovery that backfired. He slipped on the backswing, then caught
his shot heavy, bouncing the ball backward into the water. The
ensuing bogey trimmed the U.S. lead to one stroke, and the crowd
The miscue seemed to focus the Yanks, however, and they executed
flawlessly on the back nine. A bogey at the easy par-5 14th
sealed the fate of Romero and Cabrera, but don't cry for them,
Argentina--Gato and Pato played their hearts out. They simply lost
to a superior team, with the emphasis on team.
Duval and Woods had been pards in competition only once before,
losing one up to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood during the first
afternoon of foursomes at the 1999 Ryder Cup. Their bond was
palpable in Buenos Aires. "I think our friendship evolved a
little bit this week," Woods said. "We were great friends coming
in, and we're even better friends now."
On Sunday evening, after the final chants of "Ar-gen-TEE-na" had
died down, after the last soccer ball had been hurled playfully
from the crowd, Duval and Woods stepped forward to hoist the
World Cup. These two players who have won so many individual
trophies seemed a bit awkward trying to fit four hands on the
hardware. Eventually, though, they got the Cup airborne, one last
bit of teamwork in a very successful week.
Don't cry for them, Argentina--Gato and Pato played their hearts
out. They simply lost to a superior team, with the emphasis on