MONTREAL (AP) — Woody Austin took a plunge. Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk found themselves in over their heads, too, at the Presidents Cup.
After falling face-first into a lake, Austin birdied the last three holes to help his team earn a half-point Friday. Overwhelmed by a flood of birdies and eagles, Woods and Furyk were no match for Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby in a 5-and-4 loss.
Singh holed out from a bunker and chipped in for eagle, Appleby made a long eagle putt at No. 12 and they combined to go 11 under through 14 holes.
“We ran into a tough match,” said Woods, 2-7 in Presidents Cup best-ball play after his worst loss ever in team play.
“Not like we were playing bad. We shot 6 under, but we played the same holes. … We needed to take it a lot deeper than that and we didn’t do it.”
After the United States won 5 1/2 of six points Thursday in the opening foursomes matches, the International team took 4 1/2 points Friday in best-ball play, leaving the Americans with a 7-5 lead with 22 matches left.
Luckily for Woods and Furyk, nobody will remember their blowout loss.
Not after Austin lost his balance and took the face-first plunge into the lake next to the 14th green.
“I have a feeling that he will be hearing about that for the rest of his life,” U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus said.
While wife Barbara Nicklaus gave Austin a motherly hug after the match, the Golden Bear went for the needle. When the captains made their foursome pairings for Saturday morning, Nicklaus called Austin “Jacques Cousteau.”
“I’m dying to laugh, but I’m scared the cameras will be on me that I’m laughing the guy is drowning,” International captain Gary Player said. “I thought, ‘Damn, that water must be cold.’ But I was pleased to see his head come up.”
From perhaps the most embarrassing moment of his career, Austin redeemed himself with the late birdie run that helped him and partner David Toms salvage a halve with South Africans Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini.
“I hope I proved today that I’m never going to give up until it’s over,” Austin said.
The fall was shown on large video screens across Royal Montreal, along with images of his teammates doing everything they could to keep a straight face.
“You couldn’t see who it was because his head was underwater,” Steve Stricker said after teaming with Scott Verplank to deliver the only U.S. victory. “But you figured it had to be Woody.”
The good news for Austin?
That video from 10 years ago of Austin banging his putter against his head until the club snapped is headed for storage – or at least has some company.
“It’s funny,” Retief Goosen said as he watched the replay from behind the 16th. “For years he was known as the guy who banged his head against his putter. And now he’s the guy who banged his head against the water.”
Austin got the last laugh.
Sabbatini and Immelman were 2 up with three holes to play when Austin hit 6-iron into 6 feet on the 16th for a birdie, then holed a 15-foot birdie on the next hole to square the match. With the pressure on, Austin’s 5-iron from 193 yards on the 18th just cleared a ridge and settled 5 feet from the hole.
After Sabbatini made his birdie putt from 8 feet, Austin closed out the match.
All but forgotten was another day of superb play from Austin, the 43-year-old former bank teller playing in his first team event. He delivered the key putts in a halve Thursday, and he was spectacular even soaking wet on a chilly afternoon, making eight birdies when his team needed them all.
It was the birdie he was trying to make that brought Austin so much attention.
The tees were moved up on the 14th hole so that it played 293 yards, and Austin pulled his drive just into the hazard. Sabbatini was on the green in one, Toms already was in the water, and Austin figured he had no choice but to try to get somewhere near the green for a shot at birdie.
“I knew deep down I probably couldn’t pull the shot off,” Austin said. “I was doing OK until I stepped on the rock. And once I stepped on the rock, I lost my balance.”
He was falling backward, then turned his body and went for the belly flop.
“I don’t think I look any worse than I always do,” Austin said.
He also has never been more proud of himself for the way he responded.
“I’ve never putted that good under those circumstances. But let’s face it,” he said. “I’ve never been in those circumstances before.”
In the first match of the day, Goosen chipped in for par and Angel Cabrera made a 10-foot birdie putt for a 1-up victory over Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan, the first match since 2003 in South Africa that the International team won on the 18th hole.
Canadian Mike Weir had another strong match a day after teaming with Singh against Austin and Mickelson, joining Ernie Els in a 3-and-1 victory over Zach Johnson and Charles Howell III. Geoff Ogilvy and Nick O’Hern also earned a point for the International team, beating Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover 1 up. In the lone U.S. victory, Stricker and Verplank beat Adam Scott and K.J. Choi 2 and 1.