17 Jul 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |

Great Australian Moments 24: The '98 PresCup stunner

by Martin Blake

Presidents Cup 1998 image
Peter Thomson and his International team celebrate in Melbourne. Photo: Getty

At the time, this felt like a big deal. It’s only now, more than two decades on, that it has its proper perspective. It was a really big deal.

Peter Thomson’s International team dominated the United States to win what was the third playing of the Presidents Cup, a teams event created by the US PGA Tour and back then, still in its infancy.

It was the first time it had been played outside America.

The tour had created it for the benefit of the worldwide players – notably the likes of Greg Norman and Nick Price, who were both on this International team – a chance to play in the type of teams competition that the Americans and Europeans experienced every two years in the Ryder Cup.

Was it an Australian triumph as such? Technically no, but the Internationals had an Australian non-playing captain and four playing members -- Greg Norman, Steve Elkington, Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby. Plus, Royal Melbourne's magnificent composite course was on display to the world again.

The Internationals won 20 ½ to 11 ½ against an American group that Thomson had described as “the mightiest team in the world”. To this day, it remains the only victory by an International team in 13 attempts, and it was a thumping triumph.

The Americans were so far behind (nine points) after Saturday’s play that they needed a miracle in the singles; in fact, Australia’s Craig Parry and Zimbabwe’s Price won the first two matches on Sunday and it was done, with Price conjuring the winning point at the par-four 17th.

Yet it was meant to be a mismatch. At least on paper, the Americans had the reigning world No. 1 Tiger Woods as well as well as the numbers two, three and four – Mark O’Meara, David Duval and Davis Love. Not to mention emerging stars like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson and the legendary Jack Nicklaus as non-playing captain.

But the Americans struggled on Royal Melbourne’s slick greens, and Thomson’s pairings were superb, with the emphasis on keeping national flags flying together. For instance, Norman and Steve Elkington were formidable together, as were the Japanese players Joe Ozaki and Shigeki Maruyama, and the Kiwis Frank Nobilo and Greg Turner.

Some of the Internationals emerged as giant-killers, notably the previously little-known Maruyama, who won all five of his matches that week, and Parry, whose chip-in at the 18th on Saturday to beat Tiger Woods and Fred Couples went into the annals of the Presidents Cup.

Elkington was also unbeaten and Ernie Els and Vijay Singh were both outstanding. Woods had nominated himself to play Norman in the singles on Sunday, but by the time he buried a two-metre par putt at the 18th to take down the Shark, it was already well and truly decided.

“We used to think that the game was only played in the United States,’’ said Nicklaus, with due irony on show at the presentation. “We didn’t even invent it! Matter of fact, I’m not sure how well we play it anymore. No, I don’t really mean that. These (international) guys played great.”

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