|Montreal, Quebec, Canada–
There isn’t a golf fan in Canada who hasn’t been waiting for what the Presidents Cup has in store on Sunday.
Tiger Woods and Mike Weir will face one another in a singles match at the biggest golf event ever held in this country.
It doesn’t matter one bit that it will take a miracle for the International Team toeven make things interesting against the Americans on the overall scoreboard. The little lefty has experienced something of a rebirth at Royal Montreal this week and there’s no better way for this event to end than to have him take on Woods in front of 35,000 partisan fans.
“I think Mike has earned the right to represent us against the No. 1 player in the world and certainly in Canada, it’s a bit of a Cinderella story,” teammate Stuart Appelby said on Saturday night. “We have not put him in there for token value. “He’s obviously a player that has got some form, found some form.”
The Presidents Cup started with many questioning whether Weir deserved to be on the International Team and it will end with those same people wondering just how lifeless that bunch would be without him.
The U.S. swept the morning foursomes matches on Saturday and remained comfortably ahead in the afternoon, building a 14Â½-7Â½ lead heading into the final day of the event. The Internationals need to win 10 of the 12 singles matches to erase that deficit. They figure any chance of that happening starts with success in the Weir-Woods match up, which is fourth out of the gate.
“It would be a huge boost for our team if Mike could go out there and take it to Tiger,” said Ian Baker-Finch, the International Team’s assistant captain. “The roars for Mike will be huge. That’s what we need.
” I really think this could be a wonderful thing, not only for the tournament and the event and the crowd and the TV, but for our team personally. I think it could be just what we need to spark something special.” Weir has been asked about the potential pairing for months and has said that he’d welcome it.
Those sentiments came before the first three days of this event, where his 2-1-1 record is tied with Vijay Singh as the best on the International Team. Weir has played the kind of golf that harkens back to 2003, when he won the Masters and two other PGA Tour events.
It’s been 42 months in all since the 37-year-old last won a tournament, which makes his strong performance here feel even better. “This week has been special,” said Weir. “I’m playing as good of golf as I’ve played in my career pretty much.”
At least he and Woods can say they have something in common. Woods has won four of his last five starts and is 3-1-0 at this year’s Presidents Cup.
He’s also one of the best head-to-head match play competitors ever. Woods is the only man to win three straight U.S. Amateurs and has a combined record of 6-2-1 in the singles portion of Ryder and Presidents Cups.
Tiger defines intimidation, but there’s a feeling he’ll be playing more than just Weir. “If there’s one player on our team that can really give Tiger a go, it will be Mike Weir,” said Ernie Els. “He’s going to have all of Canada behind him.”
Weir and Els were paired together in Saturday afternoon’s four-ball session and provided one of the few bright spots for the International Team. They played 16 holes in 12-under par and defeated Charles Howell III and Lucas Glover 3 and 1.
It was Weir’s play in particular that again had the course buzzing. He birdied three straight holes to finish the front nine before draining a 25-foot putt for another birdie at No. 15. That one nearly brought the grandstand down.
“I don’t know how they elect presidents or prime ministers here, but I think he’s in the running,” said Els. “When Mike started making birdies, it was like a rock concert.” For the second straight day, an American entertained the crowd by wading into a pond.
Phil Mickelson put on caddie Jim MacKay’s left shoe and stood in the water while hitting a shot at No. 15. Fittingly, he was paired with Woody Austin, who was the star of highlight packages a day earlier after tripping and falling face first into the pond near the 14th hole.
Mickelson managed to stay upright, which means Austin’s splash will continue to be one the more memorable moments of this event.
“I don’t know if he’s trying to lose the tag of `Aqua Man’ or not, but I don’t think that will do it,” Mickelson said of Austin. “I think it’s going to stick.” That American pair rallied late and won the final two holes against Adam Scott and Retief Goosen to earn a halve in their afternoon match.
Austin, who at age 43 is making his Presidents Cup debut, is undefeated this week. He’s 1-0-3 and has emerged as an unlikely star for the U.S. Team. There’s no question who holds that title for the Internationals.
Even with the Presidents Cup pretty much decided, there was still plenty of excitement in the air. Weir versus Woods is the only reason why. “It’s going to be loud,” said Weir. “Hopefully I can give them a lot to cheer about. I’ve been able to do it so far through three days, but tomorrow, obviously anybody who plays Tiger has got their hands full.