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‘Kiwi’ Choices Boost Presidents Cup

December 11, 1998

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ One putt made Peter Thomson look like a genius.

Thomson, the International team captain in the Presidents Cup, raised eyebrows when he decided to spend his wild-card selections on a couple of Kiwis _ Frank Nobilo and Greg Turner of New Zealand.

Nobilo raised the roof today at Royal Melbourne.

With the American pairing of Mark O’Meara and David Duval staring at a 2-foot birdie to tie the match, Nobilo rammed home a 40-foot birdie putt from the fringe that secured a 1-up victory and sent the International team on its way to 7-3 lead after Day One.

``I was thrilled with the way they pulled it off this morning,″ Thomson said. ``They beat two wonderful names there, and in a way, it justified my picking them. That’s not a big issue. They’ve still got to win tomorrow, and hopefully on Sunday.

``Until then, I’m vulnerable.″

If Nobilo and Turner can put together another brilliant alternate-shot match Saturday, that won’t be a problem, either.

Convention wisdom suggested that Thomson would spend his two captain’s picks on a couple of Australians, which would give the International team even more local knowledge at Royal Melbourne. Robert Allenby was among the players almost everyone figured he would take.

But Thomson went with Nobilo, who was on the past two Presidents Cup teams, and Turner, his longtime partner in World Cup of Golf.

Nobilo has won only once on the PGA Tour, although he has a short history of playing his best in the major championships. Turner, who went to the University of Oklahoma, has never won in America, but played well in Europe the latter part of the season.

Both are free spirits, not about to back down from any challenge _ even playing the first Presidents Cup match against the top two Americans this year _ O’Meara, the Masters and British Open champion and player of the year, and Duval, a four-time winner and leading money-winner.

``I think it’s a tough thing for a captain to pick two guys,″ Nobilo said. ``No matter who he picked, it was going to be a tough thing, so throwing us together meant we had a lot to prove. We could have had a slightly easier draw.″

Instead, they made it look easy. They never trailed in the match, taking the lead when Duval’s tee shot on the sixth hole sailed over a fence and onto a city street.

Nobilo put his tee shot in the fairway on the 18th hole, then gave Turner some bad advice _ he had a 7-iron in his hand, and Nobilo thought he should hit a 6-iron.

``With that pin there, you can’t afford to be short, so I was happy enough to go with that,″ Turner said. ``So when I hit up the back there, I thought, `Well, you goosed me, Frank. You better make the damn thing.′ ″

No worries, mate.

After Nobilo looked over the putt, his caddie reminded him that Wayne Riley made a similar putt to win the Australian Open.

``It puts you in a good frame of mind,″ Nobilo said. ``I hit that putt beautifully, and the hole just sucked it in.″

O’Meara and Duval both looked on in disbelief as Nobilo pumped his fist and the roar from the gallery resounded across Royal Melbourne.

``In the back of my mind, I thought Frank might make that putt,″ O’Meara said. ``In this type of format, you can never underestimate your opponent.″

Nobilo and Turner sat out the afternoon best-ball matches _ not a bad idea since Nobilo has never won a best-ball match. But hours after the biggest putt of the day, the satisfaction was still on his bearded face.

``The thing with Kiwis is we will nip at someone’s heels all day for 18 holes,″ Nobilo said. ``And eventually, we will take the leg off.″

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