Woods has long, varied list of match play partners

By Jason SobelOctober 2, 2013, 12:30 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – It all started with Mark O’Meara on an autumn morning in Sotogrande, Spain.

That’s when a 21-year-old Tiger Woods teamed with his older buddy to defeat Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer in his first career match in a professional team competition. They played together twice more that week – both losses – before the young Masters champion was shuttled over to Justin Leonard, with whom he earned a half-point.

One year later at the Presidents Cup, Woods paired with Fred Couples (win), Leonard (loss), Couples again (loss) and – in one of the more forgettable partnerships of his career – John Huston (loss).

Photos: Tiger's Presidents and Ryder Cup playing partners

If you’re scoring at home, that’s four partners in his first two team events. And it didn’t end there.

Since then, Woods has played with …

… (deep breath, everyone) …

Tom Lehman, David Duval, Steve Pate, Notah Begay, Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia, Davis Love III, Charles Howell III, Phil Mickelson, Chris Riley, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson.

Whew. A guy can bust a few brain cells just trying to remember ‘em all.

“I've had all different types of partners,” Woods says with a knowing smile.

Apparently it’s enough to make him start sounding like Dr. Seuss.

“Guys who hit the ball for miles, guys who are short. Guys who are pretty mellow, guys who are pretty volatile,” he continues. “I've had it all.”

The grand total? Eighteen different partners – and he might be about to add to that total this week.

On the eve of this year’s edition of the Presidents Cup, captain Fred Couples has intimated that Woods may be paired with Matt Kuchar or Jason Dufner – or both – in addition to Stricker, who at this point is practically Ol’ Reliable on that aforementioned list.

“Everyone wants to play with Tiger. You can only get one partner,” said Couples, now in his third tour of duty leading the team. “I can't tell someone who to play with.”

Actually, that’s exactly what he can do. But that’s another story for another column.

Presidents Cup: Articles, videos and photos

With the exception of Hal Sutton’s ill-fated decision to pair him with Mickelson back at the 2004 Ryder Cup, most of the other 17 partners have been preapproved by Woods.

Break down the numbers and you’ll find an eclectic mix of hits and misses. Woods has played the most matches with Stricker (6-2-0 record together) and Furyk (5-3-1). Next on the list is a couple of buddies who haven’t made a team in years, Howell (4-1-0) and Begay (2-2-0).

He’s only been undefeated with Toms (1-0-0) and Riley (1-0-0), but winless with seven: Leonard (0-1-1), Huston (0-1-0), Lehman (0-1-0), Duval (0-1-0), Azinger (0-1-0), Calcavecchia (0-1-0) and Mickelson (0-2-0).

Seven of his partners never got a second chance to play alongside him again.

Freddie has never been much of a rock-the-boat kind of guy, so don’t expect anything out of the ordinary here at Muirfield Village.

But the question does remain: Why has it been so difficult for Woods to find a symbiotic partnership?

Some will argue that his inability to find a regular partner speaks to his competitive nature. Others might maintain that his rather mundane 26-23-2 record is a result of his individual outlook.

Really, it’s just the nature of the beast. In the history of these events, nobody has competed for close to two full decades and barely switched it up, let alone never at all.

Like all stories of this nature, though, this one is magnified because of Woods’ magnitude.

And he has less of an explanation for the turnover rate than anyone else.

“I think it's just a matter of trying to gel that particular week,” he says. “Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. But the whole idea is to go out there and just play.”

Jack Nicklaus, who on four occasions served as Presidents Cup captain on a team with Woods as a member, owned a similar attitude to Couples. Which is to say, when it came to making pairings, he was the ultimate in laissez-faire.

“I paired Tiger with whoever he wanted to play with,” Nicklaus recalls. “I did that with a lot of the guys. I didn't specialize with Tiger on that. I'd ask all the guys at the beginning of the week, ‘Who would you like to play with? Who would you enjoy playing with? Who would you like to give it a shot?

“We went to South Africa and Tiger and Charles Howell decided they wanted to play together down there. I said, OK, so they played together, did very well. I think they went to Washington and I think Tiger said he and Furyk wanted to play together. Montréal, maybe he and Stricker, I think, wanted to play together.”

Really, there is no right or wrong answer here. (OK, so there may have been a wrong answer when Sutton was at the helm.) Woods might pair with Stricker this week, a teammate he’s had success with in the past, and flail miserably. He might play with Kuchar or Dufner, each a newbie for the list, and find a winning combination.

Woods himself doesn’t know the secret formula to finding a partner for these competitions. What he does know, though, is that he’d like one who can light up a leaderboard.

“Whoever is playing well,” he smiles when asked that question. “Whoever can carry me is great.”

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.