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Presidents Cup: Adjusting to a big stage with Tiger Woods
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) ' David Toms is part of a trivia question that he doesn't know about, if he even cares.
Toms and Tiger Woods played a fourballs match at the Presidents Cup four years ago at Royal Montreal, and had no trouble beating Nick O'Hern and Geoff Ogilvy 5 and 3. It was the last time Woods played in a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup match with anyone but Steve Stricker.
Woods and Stricker, a combined 6-1-0, will be together again Thursday when the Presidents Cup gets under way at Royal Melbourne, and the scrutiny figures to be as high as ever.
They will be playing against an International team of Adam Scott and K.J. Choi, along with a fifth wheel ' Steve Williams, the caddie who now works for Scott, and who has made news over the last three months for disparaging Woods on national TV after Scott won at Firestone and with a racial comment in Shanghai at a caddies dinner.
"I'm kind of glad that it's going to happen, get it out of the way, and let the rest of the matches take care of themselves," Stricker said Wednesday. "I think it will be good to just get that part of it out of the way. Stevie and Tiger have talked, so I think it's kind of a nonissue."
It's usually an issue no matter what the topic when it involves Woods.
He has gone through 16 partners since he first played in the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. For years it was somewhat of a mystery for various captains trying to find the right fit for the guy who dominated golf.
Woods thought he had his man in Jim Furyk when they went 2-0-1 in 2005 at the Presidents Cup, though that was the best of it. They were 2-2 in the Ryder Cup at The K Club in Ireland, then 1-1 a year later at Royal Montreal in 2007.
"The first match we played together in a Presidents Cup, I think together we either shot 9 or 10 under in a fourball and he was 8 under," Furyk said. "So I went back to the team room and said, 'I'm not sure why it's so difficult to play with him for rest of you. It was pretty easy for me.' They had some choice words for me."
It was U.S. captain Fred Couples who first hooked up Woods and Stricker two years ago at Harding Park. They once were represented by the same agent ' Mark Steinberg when he was at IMG ' and spent most of the FedEx Cup playoffs in the same group that year.
Woods and Stricker became the first Presidents Cup tandem to win all four matches at Harding Park, and the first team in any cup competition in 30 years.
At the Ryder Cup a year later in Wales, they won two matches until getting run over by Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, 6 and 5. That English duo is the only team to beat them.
"I think that you enter his world for a few days when you play with him," Furyk said. "There are some people who you know that every shot he hits, it's going to be on TV and it's going to be criticized and it's going to be talked about, viewed, seen everywhere. Walking inside the ropes, you'll hear the comments that are made, positive and negative.
"But you feel a bigger stage when you're with him, and I think some people have been comfortable with that. And others haven't."
Stricker had no trouble with that stage the last two years ' the first time when Woods was on top of his game, a year ago in Wales when he had endured a long and troubling season occupied by a long layoff from his personal crisis and ultimately a divorce.
Thursday at the Presidents Cup might bring even more attention.
Stricker and Choi would appear to be along for the ride. Ditto for Scott, who recently described himself as "the guy stuck in the middle," fitting for someone who now lives in Switzerland.
"It's for them to sort out between themselves," Scott said in Shanghai.
That might already be the case. Williams apologized for his racial slur in Shanghai, saying it was all in good fun during a roast among caddies. Woods kept the story from getting worse when he said a week later that Williams was not a racist, and that the caddie had apologized to him and shook his hand at a gym in Sydney.
Neither is particularly interested in drawing more attention to the split.
International captain Greg Norman and Couples gave it a little more life by putting them in the same match ' the sixth and final foursomes match in the opening session, with plenty of eyeballs sure to be on them.
"You can kind of see it coming, with what's been going on recently," Nick Watney said. "I think it's great. I think it will definitely add some drama to the matches, and I know that they will both be ready. So it should be a good match."
That's the part that gets lost in this drama. Even when Woods was at his absolute best, he still could contribute only one point to his team, and that wasn't always the case.
Woods and Stricker will try to run their record to 7-1 in the foursomes match at Royal Melbourne. After that, there is no guarantee they will play together Friday, with some U.S. players suggesting Woods and Dustin Johnson a possibility for fourballs.
That would be another partner for Woods in these cup competition, someone else to step into his arena.