Commentary

U.S. won the Cup, but week belonged to Weir

Updated: October 1, 2007, 1:45 AM ET
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

MONTREAL -- If he arrived here through the back door -- as many in his home country believed on the eve of the Presidents Cup -- Mike Weir sure wasn't departing Royal Montreal Golf Club in that manner.

A procession fit for the prime minister or maybe an escort by the Canadian Mounties was certainly in order after Weir took down the game's No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, in a stirring singles match that made the galleries sound as if the Habs had won the Stanley Cup.

It was a hockey-type atmosphere Sunday -- save for the flying hipchecks -- for the thousands upon thousands who packed the grandstands and lined the ropes at every hole of the Weir-Woods match. And although the Internationals had almost no chance of overtaking the Americans and eventually fell 19-14, the overall outcome hardly mattered to the locals.

At least "their" guy had won.

"When I look back on my career," Weir said, "this may be something, maybe even more special than the Masters, the support I've gotten here."

Weir claimed a 1-up victory over Woods by winning the final two holes, including a birdie to tie it at the 17th and a conceded birdie at the 18th not long after Woods' tee shot found the water.

Woods' shot was so far left on the hole that it nearly flew into a spectator's Canadian flag on the other side of the hazard, leading to the kind of wild cheering you only hear for a bad shot at a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.

Mike Weir and Tiger Woods
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Tom HansonWeir defeated Woods, 1-up, in their singles match on Sunday.

It will be of no consolation to Woods, but U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus found that same pond in the 1975 Canadian Open, perhaps his best chance to win the event in which he finished runner-up seven times.

That day, there were likely groans when the Golden Bear's ball splashed, but that wasn't the case for Woods on this day. And that is the beauty of these team deals: Although it might be a bit jarring to hear catcalls and jeering, that is what happens at such partisan events, even to Woods.

"It was like a Ryder Cup," Woods said. "Especially starting out, it was unbelievable how loud the roars were. Pretty deafening, actually. And I was 3-down early, so they had a lot to cheer about. It was just unreal how the atmosphere was electric out there."

It was quite the scene, and it became wilder when Woods' chip shot for par at the 18th barely missed going in. Soon, he was telling Weir to pick up his marker, conceding the hole and the match.

And, for one of the few times, it was Woods who was left to watch somebody else celebrate.

"I'm proud of the way he handled everything this week," said Woods, who battled back from a 3-down deficit on the front nine, actually took the lead at the 15th, then lost the final two holes. "He carried the weight of an entire country on his shoulders. To go out there and play as well as he did with all the things that were expected of him … he had a lot of distractions out there, a lot of pressure on him. And he handled himself magnificently all week."

For Woods, of course, there was plenty of consolation. His team had built such a huge lead that winning Sunday was not a necessity. Not that Woods would ever accept losing, but the U.S. did experience victory in one of these cup competitions away from home for the first time since 1993.

Even Woods didn't realize that, and though he joked that heading across the border to Canada to win didn't exactly seem monumental, the record book will say it's the first time a U.S. Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team won outside America since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

"We really had a good mix of young guys, some old guys like myself and we just seemed to jell really well together and we practiced really well and we just had fun," said David Toms, who was the top points earner with a 4-0-1 record. "That's what usually happens when you have fun -- you play good golf. And we did that this week."

A few recent U.S. Ryder Cup captains named Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton and Tom Lehman might wonder why they could not produce that kind of formula. It remains a mystery to the players, and likely will be something for 2008 captain Paul Azinger to ponder.

When it comes to the Presidents Cup, however, they have had virtually no match. The Americans have lost just once in seven tries, but this was their first victory in a foreign country.

And let's face it, the competition almost certainly would not have come to the Great White North were it not for Weir. A native of Sarnia, Ontario, Weir won the 2003 Masters to become the first -- and so far only -- Canadian golfer to win a men's major championship. Despite its limited golf season, Canada is a golf-mad country, and Weir began lobbying PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to get the tournament up here.

Later that year, Weir went 3-2 at the Presidents Cup in South Africa that ended in a draw, and it was no coincidence when Royal Montreal was awarded the event.

When you consider all that, and how it ended for Weir on Sunday, the huge turnout and the roaring reception he got at every turn, it truly was Mike Weir's Presidents Cup. Even if the official winners were all red, white and blue.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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