Greg Norman was there as a cheerleader, but he was more a reminder of what this first Presidents Cup lacked - a few foreign stars who could have made the International team truly competitive with the United States.
The U.S. team took the cup Sunday 20-12, winning six of the 12 singles matches and surviving a late scare. But the outcome was never really in doubt after the U.S. team swept Friday's opening four-ball matches 5-0.Without Norman, without Ernie Els, without Jumbo Ozaki, without Tommy Nakajima and with Nick Price fatigued, frustrated and fumbling, the foreign team was simply overmatched by a far deeper U.S. team.
The U.S. team came into the day needing only five victories in singles play to take the cup and quickly won four of the first five matches decided, only to watch the next four matches go to sudden-death playoffs.
But those playoffs became meaningless when Fred Couples stuck a 9-iron 147 yards from the bunker close enough to the hole on No. 18 to be given the birdie putt by Price. Price then lost the match - and the Presidents Cup - when his chip for a birdie to tie barely missed.
"He made a great shot," Price said about Couples. "I thought I chipped mine in."
It was the end of a frustrating competition for Price, who was the only one of the 24 players not to win at least one match over the three days. The best he could do was two halves for a total of one point.
In all, the United States won six of the 12 singles matches, lost two and four were declared halved.
Not even the arrival of Norman could help pull this one out for the International team. Sidelined by an intestinal problem that caused him to lose 13 pounds, Norman withdrew from the competition last week but showed up Sunday to offer moral support to his beseiged colleagues.
"I'm just here as a cheerleader," Norman said as he stood on the first tee, looking thin and drawn, his International team uniform hanging loosely on his tanned frame. "I just called them up and said I'd like to be here."
When Phil Mickelson walked onto the first tee and said: "I haven't seen Fulton (Allem)," Norman quickly replied: "No, I'm playing," then he took a few half swings left-handed, smiling broadly.
With them, the International team might have had a chance. Certainly they might have avoided the disastrous 5-0 sweep they suffered in Friday morning's opening four-ball matches.
They never really recovered from that. And they didn't really get very much from Price, who may have hit more bad shots at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club this week than he has hit all year while winning six tournaments, including the British Open and the PGA Championship.
Price was forced to pull out of Saturday afternoon's match because of exhaustion.
In addition to a deeper team, with seven of the top-10 money winers on the PGA Tour, the United States team also had another big advantage. Six of its 12 players had Ryder Cup experience playing in this match-play format.
Captain Hale Irwin and co-captain Paul Azinger used that edge Sunday, sandwiching the foreign team between Ryder Cup players in the first three matches and in the last three matches.
The U.S. won five of those six matches, with Irwin, Jay Haas and Jim Gallagher giving the U.S. team a quick start by taking the first three matches decided.
Couples and Davis Love were the other Ryder Cup veterans to win. Corey Pavin was the only ojne among the six to lose, falling to Craig Parry 1-up.
Haas defeated Mark McNulty 4 and 3; Gallagher topped Tsukasa Watanabe 4 and 3; and Irwin won the 17th hole and halved No. 18 to take Robert Allenby 1-up, giving the United States 15 of the 17 points it needed for victory.
The International team got its first win of the day when Peter Senior defeated John Huston 3 and 2. Then Jeff Maggert took Bradley Hughes 2 and to give the United States its 16th point.
But just when it seemed like victory was assured, the matches involving Phil Mickelson and Fulton Allem, Tom Lehman and Vijay Singh, Scott Hoch and David Frost and Loren Roberts and Frank Nobilo all went to sudden-death playoffs, another innovation the Presidents Cup had over the Ryder Cup.
All four of those matches were declared halves after Couples closed out Price.
Isao Aoki just needed to take it easy.
The 52-year-old Japanese star ended a two-year winless drought on the Senior PGA Tour, taking command early in Sunday's final round and capturing the $550,000 Bank One Classic by three strokes at Lexington, Ky.
"It has been a long time," said Aoki, who had played in 46 tournaments without a triumph since winning the Nationwide Championship in his first year on the tour in 1992. "But I was very relaxed."
Aoki, a winner of 62 events worldwide, said through an interpreter that his problems on the tour had stemmed from trying too hard to win.
"The first time you win is easy," Aoki said. "The second time is harder because many people expect you to win. I expect to play good again."
Aoki had an eagle-3 on the par-5 No. 3, and went on to finish with a 3-under-par 69 to complete the 54 holes at 14-under 202. He won $82,500, bringing his earnings this year to $441,740.
He took a one-stroke lead into the final round after blistering the Kearney Hill Links with a 64 Saturday. Jim Albus and Jimmy Powell, the co-leaders after the first round, were tied for second.
But it was Chi Chi Rodriquez who made a late charge, shooting a 66 on the final day for an 11-under 205. He had an eagle-3 on the par-5, No. 18, his first eagle of the year, to take sole possession of second.
"I knew I was going to eagle 18, and I may have put too much pressure on myself to birdie 17," said Rodriquez, who missed a 3-foot birdie putt on 17.
Albus faded out of contention on the third hole, hitting the ball in the water twice in taking a triple bogey. With Aoki's eagle, he went from one stroke to six strokes behind.
Aoki, meanwhile, hit a 3-wood 235 yards and sank a 15-foot putt on the third hole to take command of the round.
Albus did recover to shoot a 74, including a 34 on the back nine, to finish in a four-way tie for sixth at 208. His $18,700 paycheck gave him earnings of $1,008,953, the third player on the tour to go over the $1 million mark.
Powell was three strokes behind after No. 14, but bogeys on the Nos. 15 and 16 took him out of the chase. He also had a final-round 74.