KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C., Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Critical birdies at the 18th hole by Raymond Floyd and at the 17th by Mark Calcavecchia provided the decisive blows Sunday that rallied the United States to a one-point victory in the inaugural Warburg Cup.
The Americans defeated a team of international players, 12 1/2-11 1/2, with 72-year-old captain Arnold Palmer setting the pace by recording a 2 & 1 victory over his old rival Gary Player in the first of the day's 12 singles matches at the Kiawah Island Ocean Course.
The United States was two points behind at the start of the day, but after a series of dramatic confrontations, the Americans pulled even with the Rest of the World team through the first eight matches.
Denis Durnian of England then won the 18th hole to defeat American Dana Quigley, 1-up, meaning that the international squad needed to win just one of the final three matches to gain at least a tie.
Ian Stanley of Australia appeared ready to give the Rest of the World team that point when he went to the final hole with a 1-up lead over Floyd. But Floyd hit a shot of 185 yards to within six feet at the 18th and made the putt to earn a halve.
Moments later, Calcavecchia, all square in his match with Ian Woosnam, hit his tee shot at the difficult, par-3 17th to eight feet and his birdie putt gave him a 1-up lead that he protected at the final hole.
Larry Nelson then wrapped up the victory with a 3 & 2 decision over Frank Nobilo.
"I'm really proud of the guys," Nelson said. "I think everybody fed off Arnold when he won. We are all real proud of him. At dinner last night, he said he wasn't going to lose."
The Ryder Cup-style event required each team to have six players over the age of 50 and six between the ages of 40 and 49.
"The guys over 50 don't get their just due about how well they can play," Nelson said. "For us to compete like this is exciting. As good as this one was today, I think there will be many more to come."
In addition to the dramatic putts holed by Floyd and Calcavecchia, there were a host of sub-plots on the final day.
Hale Irwin and Germany's Bernhard Langer, who played the decisive match in 1991 when the Ryder Cup was contested at Kiawah Island, met again Sunday. They wound up tying their match, just as they did 10 years ago. On that occasion, Langer missed a six-foot par putt on the final green that would have given the Ryder Cup to Europe.
In addition, current Ryder Cup captains Sam Torrance and Curtis Strange faced each other Sunday with Strange rallying from an early four-hole deficit to earn a tie. Torrance missed a chance to win the match at the final hole when his seven-foot birdie putt slid by the cup.
And Calcavecchia, himself, earned some vindication from the 1991 Ryder Cup with his victory over Woosnam. A decade ago, Calcavecchia had a 4-up lead with four to play in his singles match against Colin Montgomerie and lost all four holes to earn only a halve.
"I lost my match, but you don't mind when Mark hit such a great shot at the 17th," Woosnam said. "These were great matches and they were played in the proper spirit.
"It was a great event," said Floyd. "Who could have asked for more. We have all enjoyed it."
Other American victories Sunday came from Scott Hoch, who beat Isao Aoki of Japan, 2 & 1; Mark O'Meara, a 5 & 4 victor over Australian Stewart Ginn; and John Cook, who downed Jose Maria Canizares of Spain, 3 & 1.