Nov
15
2011
Tiger-Stricker Team Possibly Facing Separation Anxiety (*Update)
By Stephanie Wei under Presidents Cup

Potential trial separation?

Two years ago at the Presidents Cup, U.S. captain Fred Couples discovered an indomitable duo when he partnered Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the team matches. The pair went on to win all four of their matches in 2009. Despite their outstanding record, there’s a possibility Couples will shake things up and put Tiger and Dustin Johnson together, according to the AP’s Doug Ferugson:

“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.

One thing’s for sure: DJ and Phil Mickelson will be kept as far away from each other as possible. “Me and Phil will not be playing together this week,” Johnson told reporters with a lopsided smile at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, according to Reuters. More from the AP:

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 their Ryder Cup matches, 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.”

I hate cliches, but here we go — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. To be fair, I think the problem is finding a partner for DJ.

Perhaps the thinking behind a Woods-Johnson pair in foursomes is DJ’s length will set up Tiger for short irons into the green and DJ will have shorter irons when Tiger hits the tee shot.

Considering Royal Melbourne is known for its tricky (and slick) greens, their weakness isn’t ballstriking, but rather on the greens — and holing putts is imperative in matchplay. Both had some trouble at The Lakes last week. In the final round Dustin needed 38 putts and said he “made nothing.” Tiger prefers fast greens, and by all accounts I’ve heard, he’s quickly adjusted to the pace.

On Tuesday Tiger, Stricker, Hunter Mahan and DJ played a practice round together — which usually lends some insight in potential duos.

On Wednesday, Tiger, Stricker, DJ and Matt Kuchar make up the first group out. Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk make up another foursome, with David Toms, Nick Watney, Bill Haas and Mahan rounding out the final four.

Whatever Captain Couples decides, the Americans — the underdogs in my opinion — will have their hands full facing the strong International team loaded with Australians.

*Update: Looks like Stricker-Woods won’t be split up. Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard tweeted that Kuchar and DJ are a “lock pairing.”

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)