Austin's double drenching lifts US Cup spirits

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MONTREAL, Sep 29 (Reuters) American Woody Austin twice ended up in water, first with his ball and then comically on his stomach, while playing the par-four 14th in foursomes matches at the Presidents Cup.

Although he and partner David Toms lost the hole to Internationals duo Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman after his untimely drenching, he ended his round with three consecutive birdies to halve the match yesterday.

Playing in his first Presidents Cup at the age of 43, the ultra-competitive Austin has been an inspiration to his team mates at Royal Montreal Golf Club.

''When Woody went under water, we were on the 16th tee, and that loosened us up,'' American Steve Stricker told reporters.

''His effects were far reaching, and he also played great golf. I watched the last few holes and it was pretty spectacular.'' Austin reeled off eight birdies, four on each nine, to keep the Americans in touch with their in-form South African opponents, who covered Royal Montreal's Blue Course in seven under par.

His dramatic splash at the 16th, however, is certain to become one of the abiding memories in Presidents Cup history.

Under pressure to match Sabbatini by driving the green, Austin pulled his tee shot into the lake lining the left side of the hole.

TOTALLY SUBMERGED With his ball totally submerged, he took off his shoes and socks before slipping on a rock and tumbling forwards into the water while trying to play his second shot.

The Cup rookie failed to make any contact with the ball before getting totally drenched.

Team mate Jim Furyk, watching from the fairway, pulled his cap over his face as he started laughing.

''The whole idea of the shot was just to try to get it to the bank because I felt like from there I had a chance to make three,'' Austin said.

''Deep down I knew I probably couldn't pull the shot off but I was wanting really badly to pull it off and my caddie urged me on.

''I was doing okay until I stepped on the rock and then I lost my balance.'' Toms had also found water off the tee before the pair conceded the hole to Sabbatini and Immelman to go two down.

Against the odds, Austin earned them a share of the match with his birdie-birdie-birdie finish.

''He takes a dive in a lake and then holes three straight putts,'' said US captain Jack Nicklaus. ''He's amazing. He's been terrific so far.

''Woody is a character and he's a great competitor. It just kills him to not play well or not hit the right shot or not do the right thing. He is pure grit coming down in the stretch.'' REUTERS PDS HS1022

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