Trouble Finding the Right Partner for Tiger

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PresidentGAINESVILLE, Va. -- Tiger Woods has been paired with some of his best friends.
He also has been paired with Phil Mickelson.
In the seven Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches Woods has played since 1997, the U.S. captains have had no trouble finding him a partner for better-ball and alternate-shot matches.
Tiger Woods
Davis Love III and Fred Couples are two strong possibilities to be paired with Tiger Woods this week.
Finding one who fits is another matter.
``Everybody wants to play with him,'' Davis Love III said Tuesday, searching for a reason why Woods already has had 14 partners in 28 matches. ``Everybody gets their turn.''
Fred Couples likely will get another turn at the Presidents Cup, which starts Thursday at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Woods and Couples played twice at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and were 1-1 as a team. The loss came on the 18th hole when Craig Parry chipped in from 50 feet.
What makes for a good partner?

``Being comfortable is the best thing about it,'' Couples said. ``Everyone thinks they can play with everybody, and they all get along great. But when you're on the course, you have to know the guy pretty well because you're not going to win every single time you play, and you have to be able to say the right things and have some fun.''
Woods is supremely comfortable with Mark O'Meara, his best friend on tour. That didn't help them in 1997 at Valderrama -- Woods' first Ryder Cup -- when they went 1-2.
Two other close friends are Notah Begay and Charles Howell III. Those are the only players with whom Woods was paired for all four team matches at the Presidents Cup -- Begay in 2000 at RTJ, Howell in South Africa in 2003. Both times, their record was 2-2.
The uncomfortable side is Mickelson. U.S. captain Hal Sutton put them together for the first two matches last year at Oakland Hills.
``I felt like history needed it. I felt like the fans needed it. And most of all, I felt like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods needed it,'' Sutton said.
It proved to be a disaster. The best two Americans rarely spoke to each other in losing both matches. The lasting image was Woods trying to keep a straight face when Mickelson nearly hit 3-wood out-of-bounds on the final hole of alternate shot with their match all square against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.
Woods also played with David Duval in 1999 when they were Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, an act of desperation by Ryder Cup captain Ben Crenshaw. They lost on the 18th hole to Clarke and Westwood.
There have been partnerships over the years that have been tough to beat -- Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal; Love and Couples, who have played together 10 times in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup; Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, who never lost a match.
The search for a stable partner for Woods continues, and the record reflects futility. Woods has lost only one singles match in seven cups, yet his team record is a paltry 10-17-1. He has a winning record with only two players -- Love (2-1) and Chris Riley, who won his only match with Woods last year at the Ryder Cup.
Asked how many partners he has had in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, Woods guessed it was 16.
Asked for a reason why so many, he went blank.
``I have no idea,'' he said. ``I've had some great times with my partners, trying to out there and win points. Unfortunately, I haven't won as many points as I'd like.''
His ideal partner?
``A guy that makes a lot of birdies,'' Woods said. ``If my partner makes a bunch of birdies, we're going to have a great time.''
Even that might not make a difference. Woods still recalls the time he and Paul Azinger shot 9-under 63 in a better-ball match at The Belfry and still lost to Clarke and Thomas Bjorn.
Even more staggering is his 0-6 record in better-ball matches at the Presidents Cup.
``In better ball?'' Couples said. ``That's best ball? That's when you use his seven or eight birdies every round? That's pretty surprising. But again, I've watched a lot of it, and I think he's ready to change all that.''
To get an idea how many partners Woods has gone through, consider two other perennial cup players. Love has played in every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup since 1993 -- 11 events -- and has had 13 partners. Mickelson has played in 10 cups dating to 1994, and he's had only 11 partners.
Love played the majority of his matches with Couples. Mickelson has played at least five times with three players -- Tom Lehman, David Toms and Duval.
``I think it would be cool to play with the same guy,'' Woods said.
Maybe that would have happened if a partnership paid off earlier in his cup career. After going 1-2 in the '97 Ryder Cup, Woods and O'Meara never played together in the next two cups. Woods and Love went 2-0 at The Belfry, but their latest partnership ended in a 4-and-3 loss at Oakland Hills.
Make yourself U.S. captain for the day. Who does Woods get as a partner?
``Phil. They did good together,'' said Adam Scott of the International team, as the room broke into laughter.
Stuart Appleby had another solution to finding Woods a partner.
He was told only four Americans on this Presidents Cup team have ever played with Woods in cup competition -- Love, Couples, Mickelson and Leonard.
``All the rest of them, I guess,'' Appleby said.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''