Woods-Stricker pairing not a certainty
MELBOURNE, Australia — Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, unbeatable in the last Presidents Cup, might not be playing together for every match at Royal Melbourne.
Woods said Tuesday that he liked what he saw in the practice round from Stricker, who has not competed since Sept. 25 at the Tour Championship because of a neck injury affecting the strength in his left arm.
“Hopefully, we’ll get put out there together,” Woods said. “I know that we feel very comfortable with one another, and we were talking about it today. There’s a certain comfort level about each other’s games.”
He added, however, that the pairings for the week have not been decided.
“A lot of pairings have not been set in stone,” Woods said.
About 15 feet away on a different podium, Dustin Johnson said he would not be playing with Phil Mickelson as they did at the Ryder Cup last year in Wales because “we do better playing against each other.”
That was a reference to the money games they play at the majors and other big events, always against each other. Johnson and Mickelson lost both of their Ryder Cup matches, with neither one reaching the 17th hole.
Asked about playing with Woods, Johnson said, “That’s a possibility.”
“I don’t know if we’re supposed to be saying who we are playing with yet,” he said. “Obviously, me and Tiger will be a great team if we do play together.”
Ultimately, it’s up to U.S. captain Fred Couples.
Woods has had 17 partners in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup over the years, but he has played only with Stricker in the past two cups. They have lost only one match, last year at Wales.
While it might seem as though it took a long time for Woods to find the right partner in these competitions, it appears that Johnson is the one who isn’t an easy fit.
Stricker, meanwhile, easily could partner with someone such as Hunter Mahan. If that’s the case, it likely would be in foursomes, which still could leave intact the formidable Woods-Stricker tandem for fourballs.
It was Geoff Ogilvy who said two years ago about that partnership, “You’ve got a guy who hits every fairway and makes every putt, and his partner is Tiger Woods.”
Woods faced only two questions about possibly playing Adam Scott, which would mean a reunion with caddie Steve Williams two weeks after his racial comment while being roasted at a caddies award dinner.
“It’s already done,” Woods said about the ongoing saga. “I addressed it last week, and I said life goes forward, not backward.”
And there was only one mention of him being a captain’s pick, despite not having won in two years.
“I’m just grateful to be on the team,” Woods said. “Fred could have picked anybody, and I’m thankful that he had faith in me to be a part of the team and wanted me to be a part of the team. A lot of the players wanted me on the team, as well. So that part definitely did feel good.”
It helps that Woods is coming off a third-place finish in the Australian Open last week, his best outcome of a short year because of injuries. He was within one shot of the lead twice on the back nine at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney, and wound up two shots behind winner Greg Chalmers of Australia.
Couples went out of his way not to single out Woods when speaking about his 12-member team, though it was hard to ignore him.
“For Tiger, he’s always got the ‘X’ on his back, and everyone watches how he does,” Couples said.
He said he had dinner with Woods on Saturday night, after Woods fell six shots behind with a 75 in the third round, and that Woods all but promised he would have a better final round. He closed with a 67.
“He had a great round, and he’s pretty confident,” Couples said.
Couples will not announce his pairings until the opening ceremony on Wednesday. Johnson didn’t sound as though he would be complaining to have Woods at his side.
“Anybody that plays with Tiger is going to be pretty good,” Johnson said. “He’s playing well right now, hitting the ball great and driving it pretty straight. That’s kind of what you have to do out here.”