Two Dallas natives, Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank, are proving to be captain Jack Nicklaus's most successful twosome. In yesterday's four-ball matches, they defeated Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir, 2 and 1, to earn a point for the American team for the second consecutive day. Leonard and Verplank also teamed up to beat Peter Lonard and Stuart Appleby on Thursday, 4 and 2.
Leonard and Verplank had asked Nicklaus to put them together for this competition. Three weeks ago, they came to Robert Trent Jones Golf Club to play a couple practice rounds. The extra time spent on the course seems to be paying off.
"He's a great partner," said Verplank, who is playing in his first Presidents Cup. "I'm very comfortable with him, and I think he's very comfortable with me. That's why we wanted to play together."
After a slow start, Leonard and Verplank gained control of the match on No. 12. Verplank landed his third shot three feet from the pin on the par 5 then made the birdie putt for the pair's first lead. He went on to birdie the next hole by making a 15-footer. Leonard kept the momentum going by sinking a crucial 24-foot putt on No. 14 to halve the hole. Verplank closed out the match on No. 17 by making a three-foot birdie putt.
"When I walked onto the green, I was happy to see that it was so close," Verplank said. "I'm thinking, 'I can handle a shot like that.' "
Nicklaus Speaks Up
A couple times during yesterday's matches, Nicklaus took the galleries to task for being so partisan. While the support for the Americans was boisterous, the cheers for the International players were either muted or came after they made a bad shot.
"I said, 'Hey guys, you can root if you want for the American team, I think that's fine. I have no issue with that. But when the International team hits a good shot and makes a good shot, I think they deserve to have applause and appreciation,'" Nicklaus said. "Nick O'Hern rolled about a 25-footer at 8 today, and he almost heard a pin drop. I didn't like that at all. [International captain] Gary [Player] and I are very strong on how we feel the spirit of the matches should be played. I don't think it was terrible today, but I think that we could be better."
Lehman Checks In
Tom Lehman, the 2006 Ryder Cup captain, was at the Presidents Cup yesterday, walking the course with his 10-year-old son, Thomas.
"I'm just watching and hopefully I'll get a chance to talk to Jack and [former captain] Ken Venturi," Lehman said. "I thought [Venturi] was a great captain. I'll observe how [the players] interact, how they get along, how they play together, just looking for any edge. I think it's really important that they win this week. It's a big week for the American guys. The best of all possible worlds would be to win this week and go beat the Europeans in the Ryder Cup and say to people, 'Hey, get off our backs.' But it's more for pride's sake. We're good players, and we've proved it."
The Americans haven't won a Ryder Cup since 1999 and haven't won a Presidents Cup since 2000. They lost the 2002 and 2004 Ryder Cups and tied the 2003 Presidents Cup. . . .
Tickets remain on sale at the gate for today and tomorrow's sessions. Today's tickets are $70; tomorrow's are $80.