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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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.