DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Tiger Woods will link up with his 19th different partner in team play for the United States after being paired with Matt Kuchar for Thursday’s opening fourballs at the Presidents Cup.
World number one Woods and Kuchar will take on the long-hitting Internationals combination of Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman in the fifth match out at Muirfield Village Club.
Many had expected Woods to be reunited with Steve Stricker, with whom he has gelled superbly in the past, though the pair failed to spark together in last year’s Ryder Cup against Europe.
While giving Woods his 19th different partner at either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Fred Couples said on Wednesday he had always intended to send out the 14-times major champion in the fifth match.
“We felt like Woods would be good in the five slot, and that’s almost where we had him from the get-go to clean up and hopefully get a point for us,” Couples told reporters after he and his opposite number Nick Price had announced their pairings.
Woods, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups who will be competing in his eighth Presidents Cup, said earlier this week he was happy to play with any of his team mates.
“I’ve played on these teams for so long now, I’ve had all different types of partners; guys who hit the ball for miles, guys who are short, guys who are pretty mellow, guys who are pretty volatile,” Woods told reporters.
“I’ve had it all. So I think it’s just a matter of trying to gel that particular week, and, you know, sometimes we do, sometimes we don‘t. But the whole idea is to go out there and just play.”
Kuchar, a rock-steady player who won twice on the PGA Tour this year, was delighted to become the 10th different partner for Woods at a Presidents Cup.
“I look forward to it,” the American world number eight said. “I get along real well with Tiger. Certainly if you could pick a partner, the No. 1 player in the world is a good partner to have.”
There were no major surprises in either of the captain’s selections on Wednesday, with both teams pairing up good friends and regular practice partners in a bid to make a fast start in the biennial competition.
In the top match, Americans Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker will take on Australian Jason Day and Canada’s Graham DeLaet, with Masters champion Adam Scott and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama next off against good buddies Bill Haas and Webb Simpson.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley will resume their electrifying partnership from last year’s Ryder Cup when they play against long-time pals and fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in the third match of the day.
American veteran Steve Stricker and 20-year-old rookie Jordan Spieth will meet South African Ernie Els and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge while PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson face two more South Africans, Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, in the bottom match.
”We’ve got some great match-ups there,“ said Price, a former world number one who played on five International teams at the Presidents Cup. ”I think we’re in for a real day’s treat of golf tomorrow.
“Obviously the U.S. has got a little bit more experience than we have, but I think what we lack in experience we’ll make up for in enthusiasm. The rookies on my team are all very eager to go.”
There are seven rookies in the 12-man International line-up with a further four on the U.S. team, who are bidding to win the trophy for an eighth time in 10 editions of the biennial competition.
Couples, who has captained the Americans to success in the last two Presidents Cups, knows how important it is for the holders to make a fast start.
”It’s very important,“ he said. ”It’s like a regular event. If you play your way out of it, in a four-round event, you’ve got to fight back, hard, with some great play.
“You want to get off to a good start, and we’ve had great success the first day in several of these.”
Editing by Frank Pingue