Not to mix sports metaphors, but if the Ryder Cup is the links equivalent to the Super Bowl – all high stakes and raw emotions, then the Presidents Cup is more like the Pro Bowl – a gathering of the game’s top players in a competition that is as much celebration of the sport as battle. The biennial event, now teeing off for the 11th time boasts a friendlier on-course vibe, with the memories of past Presidents Cups not dominated by flag-waving, mob scenes on the greens, and tears. Let’s take a look at our ten favorite moments from the Presidents Cup of years previous.
2003: The Draw
To us, the biggest highlight in the twenty-year history of the Presidents Cup did not involve a win for either side. Back in 2003, the possession of the Cup came down to the final match between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. The duel spread into extra rounds, and Woods seemed to decide matters when he sunk a tricky downhill putt on the third extra hole for birdie—until Ernie calmly dropped an 8-footer on top of it. With darkness closing in and nerve-racking, match-saving putts continuing to ring in, golfing legends and team captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player agreed to call the entire competition a draw. The decision was hailed as the ultimate act of sportsmanship – a result that could happen in no other sport.
1996: A Happy Couples
Even though many consider the Presidents Cup to be a few decibels down the intensity scale from the Ryder Cup, that doesn’t mean the players don’t want to win. When the second ever Cup came down to the final match between Fred Couples and Vijay Singh, the normally easy-going Couple launched his putter into the air and punched the sky with fist jabs when he closed out the match with a 35-foot birdie on the 17th hole.
1994: The First Year
Couples was also the hero of the inaugural Presidents Cup two years earlier when he stiffed an approach shot from a gnarly lie in the rough to put the finishing touches on his match. The U.S. team only needed one point to take the Cup, and his shot determined the winning outcome. Nick Price of the international team also had a great moment on the first day, when he holed out from the fairway for an eagle-2.
2005: A Close Cut
The United States – blessed with a far deeper reservoir of golfing talent – has won all but one of the Presidents Cups so far. That has partly been thanks to the format, which has featured more matches than the Ryder Cup. That changed this year with only 30 (still two more than the Ryder Cup) matches for players to work with, which will help negate the stronger U.S. team. But the ultimate outcome has never been a given. In 2005, on American soil, it required a Chris DiMarco birdie putt on the final green to beat back the challenge of Australian, Stuart Applebly, and retain the Cup.
1998: A U.S. Loss
That lone International team victory came in a romp in 1998. Japanese star Shigeki Maruyama accounted for five of his team’s points with a singles match victory and wins in all four of his team matches. The final score was 20.5 to 11.5.
2000: Jinxed It
In possession of the Presidents Cup for the first time after the international win in ’98, Paul Tesori, who was toting Vijay Singh’s golf clubs during the matches in Virginia, wore a hat that read “Tiger Who” on the back. Probably not the best choice of attire. Woods dismissed Singh 2 and 1, and captain Ken Venturi’s squad completed a 21.5 to 10.5 rout that remains the biggest margin in competition history. The International Team has not seen the Cup since.
2007: Canadian Pride
In 2007, the competition was one-sided, but that didn’t stop Canadian Mike Weir from providing his fellow citizens a heartwarming moment at the Montreal Country Club when he whipped World Number One, Tiger Woods, in their singles match. Weir also paced the International team in points on his home turf.
2007: Jacques Costeau
Perhaps emblematic of the good-natured competition at the Presidents Cup, is that the most memorable shot for most fans was executed by Woody Austin during the 2007 Cup at Royal Montreal. Austin attempted to extricate his Titleist ball from the bank of a lake, but lost his balance and pitched sunglasses-first into the water. When captain Nicklaus scribbled his name into the lineup card for the Sunday singles, he jokingly used the name “Jacques Costeau.” Fully embracing his new moniker, Austin arrived at the course sporting snorkeling gear. Hard to imagine that bit of whimsy ever taking place at the Ryder Cup.
Only time will tell if the 2015 edition will end up on a future “top moments” list. Let’s hope so.