- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

LAKE MANASSAS, Va. — The United States Presidents Cup team sent Jack Nicklaus out a winner.

A season that saw golf’s 65-year-old legend take his farewell competitive bows at the Masters and British Open ended with one last fitting curtain call yesterday at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Florida firebrand Chris DiMarco closed out Nicklaus’ successful tenure as captain with a dramatic 1-up anchor-match victory, giving the U.S. an 18-15 victory over the International team in the sixth Presidents Cup.

“I may never captain another team, and I may never play another round of golf,” said Nicklaus, almost in tears after watching his U.S. charges snap a five-year victory drought in global team competitions (Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup). “But if I end my career this way, it will be a pretty good way to end it.”

To a man, the maligned U.S. team — which has struggled so mightily in such recent events — arrived determined to grind for the Golden Bear and put any and all intrasquad grievances to rest. Both goals were accomplished in grand style, as the group played absolutely brilliant golf against Gary Player’s sturdy squad of international golfers while exhibiting the best U.S. team chemistry in decades.

“We all wanted to play well for Jack,” said U.S. veteran Davis Love III. “He had a loss [in 1998] and a tie [in 2003] as the captain in this event, and we wanted to get him a win. I think that desire and unity showed more on the course this week than it has before. We all had a blast, and we got it done.”

Although U.S. superstars Tiger Woods (2-2-1) and Phil Mickelson (3-0-2) enjoyed strong performances, the 37-year-old DiMarco stole the spotlight for Nicklaus’ team this week, finishing with a U.S.-best record of 4-0-1 and clinching the cup with a 1-up victory over Australia’s Stuart Appelby with a 14-foot birdie putt in the event’s final match.

With the score 17-15 and Mickelson still engaged in an extra-hole battle with Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, DiMarco hit a brilliant shot from a nasty stance in a right-rough bunker on the 420-yard closing hole and then coasted home the putt with his distinctive “claw” grip to touch off a riotous celebration around the green among the partisan local gallery and U.S. squad.

“I don’t know how to explain it. I just know my caddie said before I hit my putt, ‘This is the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life, so go ahead and do it,’” said DiMarco, the runner-up to Woods in this year’s Masters and a player ironically notorious for his final-round failures on the PGA Tour. “I did it for 13 other guys, counting [vice captain] Jeff Sluman and Mr. Nicklaus. It’s unbelievable. We needed this Cup, we really did. People were getting down on us, saying that we don’t care. And we do care. This was a big, big week.”

The U.S. team is hoping this week’s enthusiasm and chemistry will carry over to next year when it travels to the K Club in Ireland, attempting to reclaim the Ryder Cup from a European team that has bested it in four of their last five meetings.

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