Stuff you might think of (but can’t always say) while working the Presidents Cup late shift in a jacket and tie:
• For all the hand-wringing over whether Steve Stricker would be healthy enough to carry Tiger Woods, it now appears Dustin Johnson will partner with Red Shirt in Thursday’s foursomes opener. Hey, when it comes to lugging around guys with 14 major titles, only the best chauffeurs need apply.
• As one prominent member of the golf community recently told me, “If Tiger doesn’t play Adam Scott in the singles, I’m gonna shoot my TV!” At which point, Steve Williams would … ah, never mind.
• By publicly diffusing his former caddie’s racially-flecked remarks, Woods made the safe, sensible play. You don’t want that kind of thing hanging over the first tee on any morning, and though everyone is itching to see that first Tiger-Stevie rendezvous, it’s gonna turn out like one of those Rex Ryan-Bill Belichick postgame handshakes. Sorry, folks. Nothing there.
• I love the Prez Cup’s four-day, 34-match format. Eight guys on each side will play in five matches – the other four on each side play in four. It’s a far more complete test of each squad’s depth than at the Ryder Cup, where there’s plenty of space to hide the choppers until Sunday. If you’re gonna glom onto somebody’s bandwagon, as the PGA Tour did with this event, at least make it better in some regards.
• The Johnson-Woods pairing actually makes a bunch of sense, at least in alternate-shot. Big Dustin is the straightest long driver at Royal Melbourne this week, which should give Tiger some early scoring opportunities. Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, just left Johnson to work for Red Shirt, so he knows both guys inside-out. Plus, he won’t have to spend as much time looking for a Nike in the right rough.
• By semi-leaking his partnership with Woods while speaking to the media Tuesday, Johnson got me thinking: Why not announce the pairings a couple of days in advance so we can get some Ali-Frazier buildup on the sexiest matches? For an event that should continue to separate itself from the Ryder Cup, it’s worth a shot.
• Meanwhile, it looks like Phil Mickelson will be paired with Jim Furyk — another straight hitter alongside a wobbly driver. And I’m loving Couples’ Webb Simpson/Bubba Watson monster tag-team. Of course, a lot of pairings look really good on paper.
• You know, a ton of people cheered back in 2006 when Hal Sutton put Woods and Mickelson together at Oakland Hills. Nobody likes to admit that now, though.
• Tiger and Phil drive it so poorly, I’m thinking that guy Mayhem, the star of those hilarious Allstate commercials, ought to tag along for the ride. He can replace Michael Jordan as an assistant captain.
• OK, I’ll admit it: I’m not exactly the guy to ask if you want to know about K.T. Kim. The South Korean won three times in Japan, finished T-6 at Firestone in August and T-4 at the Wyndham Championship a few weeks later.
• If I’m Greg Norman, I’m putting two guys on Stevie and making sure he gets nowhere near a live microphone the entire week.
• Five guys on the U.S. team hit fewer than 60 percent of their fairways in 2011, including Johnson, who ranked 147th in driving accuracy (57.17). There’s a big difference, however, between hitting it in the first cut or wiping it down by a hot-dog stand on an adjacent hole. Johnson’s misses are playable. Tiger’s can be hard to find, let alone knock on the green.
• That said, half the Americans have a birdie percentage of 18.5 or higher from the rough. Among the Internationals, only Aaron Baddeley is above 15.6. So the U.S. team is kind of like the U.S. economy. We might not know where it’s going, but that ain’t all bad, either.
Watch wall-to-wall coverage of the Presidents Cup live on Golf Channel. Tournament air times: Golf Channel Thursday 7:30PM-2AM, Friday 4PM-midnight and Saturday 6:30PM-12:30AM. NBC coverage Saturday at 8AM and Sunday at noon. (Note: all times are ET)