The Presidents Cup will kick off Thursday in Melbourne, Australia with a surprise pairing: Tiger Woods and Steve Strickler will face Adam Scott and K.J. Choi. Scott’s caddie, of course, is Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams, who has a long and recently contentious history with his former employer.
Williams has taken shots at Woods every chance he’s had since being replaced, starting with his over-the-top celebration when Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational this summer and culminating with a remark earlier this month that many interpreted to be racist. Williams met with Woods face-to-face on the eve of last week’s Australian Open to apologize, but the acrimony has been thick for a long time.
The decision to put Woods and Williams in the same foursome was not deliberate, at least if you believe U.S. captain Fred Couples and International captain Greg Norman.
“I think it’s great for the tournament,” Norman said, according to PGATour.com. "It needed to be done. It played out the way it played out. There wasn’t any premeditation by it.
“I think at the end of the day, the guys in that last group will be the consummate professionals and go out and play the game of golf representing their International Team and the U.S. Team the way they should do.”
For what it’s worth, the players seem just as excited as the rest of us.
“I think it’s probably a pairing that y’all have been talking about for two weeks now since we were in China,” American Jim Furyk said, “and it was probably a matter of time before it happened. So just want to get it out of the way right off the first.”
Woods and Scott were nearly paired together on the final day of the Australian Open before Woods hit a birdie late in the round on the third day to move up on the leaderboard. By getting their first pairing together out of the way early, Norman hopes the media spectacle will be over and done with, putting the attention squarely on the game.
“It’s a dead issue as far as we are concerned,” Norman said. "There’s no animosity between any of the players or any of the issues have taken place.
“I know it’s good fodder. People like to talk about it in the media. But from our perspective, it’s dead and gone, and we would like to keep it that way going forward.”
The complete pairings for the first day are as follows:
- Match 1: Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa, International vs. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, U.S.
- Match 2: Bill Haas and Nick Watney, U.S. vs. Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel, International
- Match 3: Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day, International vs. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, U.S.
- Match 4: Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, U.S. vs. Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby, International
- Match 5: K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang, International vs. Hunter Mahan and David Toms, U.S.
- Match 6: Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, U.S. vs. Adam Scott and K.J. Choi, International