It's O.K. to call them the Dream Team now, but a week ago we would've busted a gut if someone had suggested that Stewart Cink and Kirk Triplett would be kick-ass kings of the Presidents Cup. After all, the 38-year-old Triplett took 11 years (266 starts) to get his only Tour victory, at this year's Nissan Open. Cink, 27, has been consistent during his four years on Tour but has won only twice and had never played a foursomes match until last week. Nevertheless, Cink and Triplett were nearly perfect at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, teaming to win all three of their matches before putting up a victory (Cink defeated Greg Norman 2 and 1) and a halve (Triplett versus Michael Campbell) in singles.
Triplett never dreamed he would enjoy playing in something like the Presidents Cup. "I used to say, 'No way, man. I don't want to take that heat,' " he says. "Those team things are gut-wrenching. I know exactly what the players are thinking: Please just don't let me embarrass myself, don't let me bat it into the lake on the 17th hole in the most important match in history so they talk about me for the rest of my life."
Cink was introduced to the alternate-shot format the day before the matches began—by Notah Begay and Tiger Woods. "We didn't lose a hundred dollars," says Cink, who along with Triplett played Begay and Woods to a draw.
Ken Venturi said he made the pairing on a hunch (so what do you like on the NASDAQ, Kenny?), but there was an obvious method to the team's magic. Triplett hit the fairways, Cink hit the iron shots close, and Triplett made all the putts.
On Thursday they closed out Retief Goosen and Mike Weir on the 16th green when Triplett rolled in a 40-foot snake for birdie. Goosen and Weir didn't make a bogey, but the Dream Team rained seven birdies on them, three more than any other Thursday pairing. The next afternoon Cink and Triplett, with seven more birdies, came from two down to beat Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby 2 and 1. Venturi paired Triplett and Cink in Saturday's better-ball matches, too, and they beat Allenby and Carlos Franco one up. "I'm sure that was an audible," said Triplett, who was 15 under in the three matches. "The way Stewart and I play, I guarantee you we would not have been scripted as a best-ball team. We're both par-'em-to-death kind of guys."
On Saturday they were greeted by President Clinton at the par-3 9th hole. "We were struggling at the time, and I told the President, 'Why don't you go down and hit one for me?' " Triplett said. "He said, 'I don't think I can get a seven-iron on that green like you guys.' Actually, I think he was waiting for Mr. Woods." While waiting, Mr. President saw Triplett hole a birdie putt to square the match.
The star turn should raise both players' profiles. Triplett traded in his trademark bucket hat for a blue-and-red team cap, and spectators immediately mistook him for Tom Lehman. Cink was one of two U.S. players whom Venturi forgot to introduce during Wednesday's opening ceremonies. Those slights were quickly forgotten. "Winning a tournament was great, but this week was special," Triplett said. "It's like I said after my win in L.A.—If I had known it was this much fun, I would've done it a lot sooner."
Actually, his timing was like his Presidents Cup pairing. Perfect.