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
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

    Getty Images

    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

    Getty Images

    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

    Getty Images

    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.