Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may enjoy each other’s company at the ping-pong table, but, in what must come as a shock to absolutely no one, the world’s first- and third-ranked golfers won’t have a chance to better their 0-2 record in team play this week at the Presidents Cup if either has anything to say about it, and he does.
"As far as Tiger goes," U.S. captain Fred Couples told reporters Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s kickoff to the 10th playing of the biennial matches between the U.S. and International teams, "he’s our No. 1 guy. All 11 guys want to play with him."
Well, nearly all of Tiger’s 11 teammates may want to tee it up with the reigning PGA Tour player of the year. Mickelson, who compiled that losing mark with Woods during two ill-fated pairings in the 2004 Ryder Cup, won’t see any action beside his long-time rival.
"Phil probably won’t," added Couples, noting that the powerful 2012 Ryder Cup duo of Lefty and Keegan Bradley, who went 3-0 as partners, made a "great team together."
Perhaps somewhat surprising was Couple’s announcement that Woods and his long-time foursome and four-ball partner, Steve Stricker, would get together this week. Assistant skipper Davis Love III told Golf.com recently that the two old friends "might be tired of playing together," but captain Freddie apparently knew better.
"Steve Stricker will probably play with Tiger a little bit," remarked Couples, who listed a couple other guys who could see playing time alongside the 14-time major champion.
"Matt Kuchar’s out there playing with [Woods], and [PGA champ Jason] Dufner," said Couples, who’s managing his third Prez Cup unit. "So I let them tell me [with whom they want to play]."
More to the point, Couples, who indicated that Tuesday’s practice-round partners offered a good indication about future pairings, suggested that he takes marching orders from his guys.
"Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger," he said about the trio with some 50 team events among them, "pretty much whatever they say is going to happen ... We go to those three guys and we ask them what they think."
About those Tuesday pairings, Stricker, Mickelson, Bradley and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth went out on Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village track in the first group, with Phil and Keegan no doubt hoping to win back some of the hard-earned dough they lost to the Spieth-Stricker duo last month at East Lake.
With Zach Johnson just arriving on Tuesday morning after battling a stomach bug that precluded him from flying in with the rest of his teammates, cup rookie Dufner, Woods, and Matt Kuchar picked up Love as their fourth for the morning fun round.
Zach Johnson arrived in Columbus 20 mins ago after missing his flight yesterday with a 48-hr flu bug. Freddie says he'll be ready. #prescup— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 1, 2013
Couples noted that Woods really enjoyed Dufner’s "huge sense of humor," and Golf Channel reported breathlessly that Woods and Kuchar were putting each other’s golf balls on the practice green. So read the tea leaves and pretty much bank on Tiger going out with each guy this week.
Bill Haas, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, and Hunter Mahan rounded out the American foursomes getting in some local knowledge.
Captains Couples and Nick Price will put an end to the intrigue when they announce their first group of pairings Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET.