Spander: Spectacle of Presidents Cup comes to a close

And so the golfing gods depart, the marquees come down and Harding Park, the little muni that could, goes from Tiger and Phil to a lot of neighborhood Joes, which is as it should be on a public golf course.

The weather wasn’t quite what was expected — brrr! — the competition was less than hoped, but The Presidents Cup was four days of memories and birdies. That ain’t bad.

Once again the United States was a winner against the international team, this time 19½ points to 14½ — not exactly a shock when the top three players in the world rankings are Americans and they play like the top three players in the world rankings.

Tiger Woods, No. 1 on the list, was a winner in all five of his matches; Phil Mickelson, No. 2, had four wins and a tie; and No. 3 Steve Stricker was 4-1.

“That’s what you expect out of your No. 1 player in the world,” Greg Norman, the international team’s captain, said of Woods. “You need him to step up to the plate. And sometimes he hasn’t done that, [but] this time he did do it.”

This time he teamed with Stricker to win their two foursomes and two four-ball matches. And then Sunday on his own, in what some called revenge for the stunning outcome of the PGA Championship in August, Woods crushed Y.E. Yang of Korea 6 and 5 in one of the 12 singles.

When Lincecum and Cain pitch shutouts, the Giants can’t lose. When Mickelson and Tiger pitched virtual shutouts, the U.S. couldn’t lose.

“I needed him — it sounds stupid — to go 5-0,” Fred Couples, the U.S. captain, said of Tiger’s perfection.

The event needed him to provide the cachet of a high-level attraction, which The Presidents Cup certainly was.

If San Francisco didn’t exactly need the match-play event to verify its status as a world-class city, it still was a welcome addition.

Big-time golf makes such infrequent appearances in the West — although the U.S. Open will be at Pebble Beach next year and San Francisco’s Olympic Club in 2012 — that The Presidents Cup became a special presence in The City.

Yes, there are cable cars that climb halfway to the stars, but how often do guys such as Tiger, Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy walk the fairways out beyond Twin Peaks?

America again had a home-nation advantage in winning the event for the sixth time in eight chances. But Norman, the Aussie who grew up playing Royal Melbourne — where the tournament will be in 2011 — pointed out that the Harding crowd gave support to the international team, if not as fully as to the U.S. squad.

“I think it was a 70-30 split,” Norman said. “That would be expected here in San Francisco. We have a lot of ex-pats from around the world. Asian nations are represented very well here. There were a lot of Australians, and I saw a lot of Canadians out there and a lot of South Africans wearing their rugby jerseys.”

If Norman was impressed with the gallery, he was no less impressed with the venue. “I think,” he said of Harding, “with just a few minor adjustments it could be a magnificent course worthy of holding a PGA or a U.S. Open championship.”

Norman has no idea whether he will be asked to repeat as captain, but everybody has the idea Ryo Ishikawa of Japan is going to be one of the game’s best. In a match crossing generations and cultures, the 18-year-old on Sunday beat America’s 49-year-old Kenny Perry, 2 and 1. Ishikawa had three wins and two defeats.

Sean O’Hair of the U.S. — who had been coached during the week by Michael Jordan on intensity, and by Tiger and Phil on putting — overwhelmed Ernie Els, winning 6 and 4.

“I always enjoy getting advice,” said O’Hair, the team’s rookie. “Tiger always has been a friend of mine, and it was good to play Saturday with Phil. I learned so much about reading greens.”

Mickelson, a 2 and 1 winner against Retief Goosen, was elated when his wife, Amy — receiving treatments near San Diego for breast cancer — arrived Saturday.

“That was awesome,” Mickelson said. “What a wonderful surprise.”

The way he, Tiger and Stricker played also was wonderful, but it hardly was a surprise. They’re the top three in world rankings. And they played like it.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at

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