The fact that Price withdrew last week, as did Norman, from the European Masters, didn't bother Nobilo. "You have to remember that you're talking about sportsmen, not people with ordinary jobs," he said. "They probably pulled out as a precautionary measure because they weren't quite 100 percent, not because they were incapacitated. Those two are the best in the game and great competitors. I'm sure they'll be ready to play."
The International team has been effectively set for more than a year, because of the glacial pace of change on the Sony World Ranking, which determines its roster. For most of that time that lineup appeared to be stronger than the Americans', which was set by the rapidly changing money list. On the eve of the matches, though, the Internationals appear to be the underdogs, and not only because of questions about Norman and Price. The team has a combined 18 wins this year, one more than the Americans, but only two have come in the U.S. and six on the European tour, which is considered the second-most difficult in the world. Jumbo Ozaki, 49, has won five times in Japan and since the end of March has finished outside the top 10 in only four events. Revealingly, all four came when he competed on American soil, with missed cuts in the Masters and the PGA. Frost and Peter Senior come into the matches following a string of missed cuts, and Craig Parry has struggled with his game in the past few months as well.
Pluses for the International team have been the play of Robert Allenby of Australia and Mark McNulty of Zimbabwe, both of whom have won recently in Europe, while Singh and Steve Elkington have been steady all year. The Internationals have match-play experience, with an overall record of 112-75-13. The Americans' record is 78-53-14, and two U.S. players, Kenny Perry and Steve Stricker, have no match-play experience as pros.
All of which prompts Pavin to call the Presidents Cup a dead heat. "At the Ryder Cup in recent years we've seemed to have more depth," he said, "but the matches have all been close. In golf anyone can beat anyone else on any given day."
Dudley Hart is living proof.