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World Cup Notebook

December 10, 2000

BELLA VISTA, Argentina (AP) _ The Tiger vs. The Cat.

With Tiger Woods competing for the first time in Latin America, the cries of ``Vamos Tigre!″ (``Let’s Go, Tiger!″) were everywhere at the World Cup of Golf.

But for thousands of Argentine fans, the loudest cheers were for their two countrymen, led by Eduardo Romero _ alias ``El Gato″ (``The Cat″).

Romero, teaming with Angel ``The Duck″ Cabrera, his longtime playing partner, pulled off an unexpectedly strong second-place finish at the 24-nation event. The Argentines ended just three strokes behind Woods and teammate David Duval, who won Sunday with an overall score of 34 under par.

Still, ``The Cat″ and ``The Duck″ kept right alongside Woods and Duval as the Argentines finished near the top of the leaderboard every day. Their threat faded Sunday on the back nine when the Argentines bogeyed twice.

Still, the Argentines had come within one stroke of the Americans on Sunday before falling. That left many Argentines content. As one hometown fan shouted when the Argentines were a threat: ``No Tigers here! Only Cats and Ducks!″

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PARAGUAYAN PLUCK: Last week, Paraguay’s Esteban Isasi failed to qualify for the PGA Tour. This week he found himself competing against some of golf’s biggest names.

Isasi was trying to earn his full-exempt status on the tour at a tournament in La Quinta, Calif. He failed to make the cut but did manage to win a different kind of qualifying tournament: entry into the World Cup alongside Paraguay’s PGA Tour regular, Carlos Franco.

Finding a partner for Franco was a struggle in one of South America’s smaller countries, home to only three golf courses. So Franco arranged a casual playoff between Isasi and two other competitors. Isasi won.

In a hearbeat, Isasi was on his way with Franco to play for a $1 million prize, pitted against the likes of Woods and David Duval of the United States, Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and Ian Woosnam of Wales.

To everyone’s surprise, Paraguay finished third, 11 strokes behind the winning Americans.

The Paraguayans were cheered at every hole. At one point, they even speculated about what they would do if they pulled off an improbable win.

Franco’s response: a big airborne party on the flight home.

``We were talking about renting a plane to take all the Paraguayan fans back home,″ he said.

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WEARY WEIR: Most golfers at the World Cup of Golf had to contend with the usual hazards: wind, heat, even a bit of lightning and thunderstorms.

But Canada’s Mike Weir had to fight a nasty flu bug. Or perhaps a bit of food poisoning. It didn’t stop him.

``You know, I had every full intention of coming, but I was sick,″ said Weir, who had to travel more than 8,000 miles to Argentina. ``You know, it was a 24-hour bug or food poisoning. When I woke up Tuesday I felt much better. So I was able to make it.″

Still woozy, he didn’t do so bad. He and teammate Glen Hnatiuk shot an opening round 61, just four strokes off the lead. They ended the tournament midway back in 10th place for a respectable finish.