In 1953 U.S. industrialist John Jay Hopkins created the World Cup in hopes of staging "a competition that would bring together the world's greatest players in order to establish a tradition of international goodwill through the game of golf." Even an idealist such as Hopkins couldn't have imagined the scene at the Buenos Aires Country Club on Sunday evening, when, at the end of the 46th edition of the World Cup, a giddy David Duval seized the microphone and interrupted the trophy ceremony to lead the raucous crowd in chants of "Ar-gen-TEE-na! Ar-gen-TEE-na! Ar-gen-TEE-na!" That this wild week ended on such a boisterous note was only fitting. If the soundtrack to most golf tournaments is Muzak, this World Cup was set to a pulsating tango beat.
Duval and his partner, Tiger Woods, made up the most glamorous U.S. team since 1967, when Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer won their fourth Cup in the span of five years, but Duval and Woods were merely the costars in a drama that consumed a nation. Most Argentines know golf only as the name of a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce they put on their sandwiches, but local heroes Eduardo (El Gato) Romero and Angel Cabrera produced such inspiring golf—of the nonedible variety—that the crowd was moved to sing f�tbol fight songs as early as Thursday afternoon.
The Argentines battled the Americans down to the final putt, igniting in their countrymen the kind of passion that usually comes with first love. If this wasn't the most important golf tournament of the year, it was certainly the most spirited. "It was even more fun than I imagined coming down here," Duval said on Sunday night. "The scene was amazing. I've never seen some of the things that occurred, just like today, on the 18th green."
In the end, the reputations of both Duval and John Hopkins's Cup were enhanced. Duval carried the U.S. team to a three-stroke victory under a new format: four rounds of team medal play, divided between alternate shot and better-ball. "What were we, 34 under par?" Woods asked when it was all over. "He was 32, I was two."
The dazzling competition gave a shot of credibility to the World Cup, which this year was brought under the umbrella of the glitzy World Golf Championships. Though the adjective World seems to be grafted to virtually every tournament these days, the World Cup deserves the designation. It has visited 23 countries in its history, and this year's 24-team field included duos from such unlikely places as Malaysia and Finland.
Certainly, the Cup was an appropriate venue for the grand finale of Woods's eight-week world tour, during which he teed it up at eight events across four continents. Woods arrived in Buenos Aires on Dec. 5 looking a bit the worse for wear—"tired and in not a very good mood," according to the Buenos Aires Herald, one of the dozens of media outlets that staked out the airport and then Woods's hotel. Though Nicklaus was the best player in the world when he traveled to Buenos Aires for the 1971 World Cup, his celebrity was confined to golf circles. Woods's appearance was being trumpeted as one of the biggest things ever to happen to South American sport, non-f�tbol division. Duval, meanwhile, was dismissed in most local press accounts as el compa�ero de Tiger, but before long he was the star of the show.
At the packed pretournament press conference on Dec. 6, Woods's eyelids were at half-mast and his famous smile seemed to have been held up in customs, but Duval was at his most relaxed and animated. At one point a local reporter asked Duval for his thoughts on playing alternate shot, considering that "the American team at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup didn't have a good performance with this format."
"Maybe you've read something I haven't," Duval replied playfully, "because I thought we won seven out of eight matches in the alternate shot at the Presidents Cup."
"What about the Ryder Cup?"
With a laugh, Duval said, "I believe we won that, too. We're holding both cups, so how could we have done too bad?"