SAN FRANCISCO – As incidents go, it was almost comical. And Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker hardly needed any help anyway.
But on a day when almost everything seemed to go bad for Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy, a ringing cell phone and a fan who couldn’t keep his mouth shut added to their misery.
The International team members were already 1-down in their match on the third hole when Ogilvy ran into problems while trying to putt for a par that would have given them a halve. By the time he missed the putt, Woods was apologizing to him even though both he and Stricker were blameless.
“Tiger did a classy thing and apologized for that, not that he had anything to do with it, but we hate to see stuff like that happen,” Stricker said.
What happened was the phone of a course marshal standing near the green started ringing as Ogilvy stood over his putt. When he backed off and then stood over it again, the phone rang again.
The players and their caddies looked into the crowd to see who the offender was, and it turned out to be a marshal. But he apparently was not familiar with how to turn his phone off and it rang several more times before he finally retreated out of sight.
Stricker said he thought it went off seven different times, but Woods held up five fingers to indicate it wasn’t that much. But when Ogilvy went to finally hit the putt, a fan yelled out a reference from the movie “Caddyshack” and he ended up missing it.
“You know the only part that was intentional was the guy yelling out, which was absolutely uncalled for,” Woods said. “And this is not what golf is all about.”
Woods and Stricker went on to beat Ogilvy and Ishikawa 6 and 4 in the alternate shot format, the biggest win by any team on the day.
A NEW ROUTE: The routing at Harding Park changed from when the World Golf Championship was played here in 2005, mainly to make sure that everyone reached the 18th hole, the signature hole with a dramatic tee shot over Lake Merced.
That now plays as No. 15, and it was pivotal for Phil Mickelson, who crushed a tee shot that set up the third straight birdie that gave he and Anthony Kim control of their match.
Mickelson was asked his strategy on playing the hole.
“I approach it similar to whether I’m ahead or behind,” Lefty said. “Basically, I try to tee it really high and rip at it.”
Upon hearing this, Tiger Woods dropped his head and stifled a laugh.
Mickelson said by taking a big cut and going long, it makes the fairway wider. Then he turned to Steve Stricker and asked if that was his strategy on the hole, too.
“I don’t play it that way,” Stricker said.
Woods finally chimed in: “We didn’t play that hole.”
Woods and Stricker closed out their match on the 14th hole, the shortest of the six matches.
JORDAN RULES: Michael Jordan’s role as an unofficial yet official assistant captain continued to be a thorny issue at Harding Park.
The former NBA superstar had a golf cart and a team windbreaker and spent most of the day shuttling between groups to offer words of encouragement, particularly to the younger players.
Asked about Jordan, Couples said he hangs around in the team room with players, acts as a sounding board for some of them, and is a cheerleader. Earlier in the week he played a practice round with them, generating some controversy because he was smoking a cigar on a city course where it is not allowed.
“On the golf course he’s allowed to do a little bit and not trying to do a lot,” Couples said. “So he’s just telling them to relax and have fun and this is what it’s all about. Just like what Greg (Norman) and I do. And I don’t want Greg to think I’ve got two assistants out there. He is out dressed like that because I thought it would be best to keep it from being this show. But everyone knows Michael Jordan, and he’s having a great time.”
SPECIAL GUEST: Among the dignitaries at the Presidents Cup this week was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, at least according to British Open champion Stewart Cink.
He said on Twitter that the U.S. team asked the former actor about his golf game.
“On his golf game he said, ‘Last time I held a club was in Conan the Barbarian.’ Funny moment,” Cink wrote.
ROCKET SCIENTISTS: Fred Couples has always liked to keep things simple, and his pairings in the Presidents Cup reflect that.
It makes it easier, of course, when you listen to who your top player wants to partner with. Tiger Woods won big with Steve Stricker in the opening alternate ball matches, and they will play again Friday, this time against Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera.
That Woods and Stricker should be comfortable with each other is no surprise. They were paired together in seven rounds during the PGA Tour playoffs, and they may play together all week here.
Finding Woods a partner he is happy with could be a key to the President’s Cup. In recent team competitions, Woods has clearly been out of sorts with his partner, including his infamous pairing with Mickelson at the Ryder Cup.
“I was comfortable having him as my partner, but I wanted to make sure he was comfortable having me as his partner, just because I didn’t want to feel like he had to hold up my end as well as his end,” Stricker said.
Couples said way too much is made of the way players are paired together because in the end they are all very good players.
“Greg could make my pairings and think he’s doing a horrible job and I can take his and think I’m doing a horrible job; they are still six great teams,” Couples said. “It’s not that difficult.”
IN THE WOODS: Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim took their first lead on the sixth hole, which played under 400 yards.
With a bogey, no less.
Kim hit his tee shot into the trees, leaving Mickelson no choice but to play toward the fifth fairway. Kim came up short of the green, and Mickelson chipped some 4 feet short of the cup.
The good news for them? Mike Weir and Tim Clark rattled around in the trees, taking four shots to reach the green. From there, Weir missed a 6-foot putt for a double bogey.
“Hopefully, darkness didn’t come before we finished the hole,” Kim said. “We were fortunate.”