As you may have heard, Greg Norman didn’t waste any time getting the most-talked-about-grudge-match of the decade out of the way. The International team captain claims pitting Steve Williams (Adam Scott) and Tiger Woods against each other in the opening session of the Presidents Cup wasn’t intentional, but then both captains said they wanted to get the touching reunion out of the way. Which is smart from a PR-y standpoint — they got in front of the story, quashing the built-up drama early, so it’d be over and done.
What a buzzkill!
It’ll be the first time Stevie and Tiger find themselves in the same group since Tiger fired Stevie this past summer, followed by the drama that was triggered every time Stevie got near a microphone (Bridgestone, Shanghai, recorded interview in New Zealand, which was recently released, along with miscellaneous follow-up radio chats).
Oh, who else is in the group and also swinging a club? Scott and K.J. Choi will take on Tiger and Steve Stricker (phew, no fear for separation anxiety! — for now) in the sixth and final match on Thursday.
“I think it’s great for the tournament,” Norman said. “It needed to be done.”
But it wasn’t premeditated! Oh, please. The intriguing pairings process wasn’t a blind draw. One captain announced two names and the other captain consulted his assistants before retorting with their team’s duo. So, it could have been avoided had either side not wanted the Tiger-Stevie face-off. Technically, it was unplanned, but I say, semantics!
“I’m sure Freddie and I — everybody — we want to put this behind us,” Norman said, according to the AP. “It’s a dead issue as far as we’re concerned. There’s no animosity between any of the players. 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 that way going forward.”
Remember, it wasn’t intentional. Like I said, smart strategy to get it out of the way, but that makes it less fun when Scott and Tiger battle each other in singles on Sunday. (With Choi and Stricker also in the foursome, they’ll be buffers between any awkward tension.)
In the Presidents Cup, each captain takes turn putting his team in one of the six matches. With each announced match, anticipation kept building until it came down to Couples.
Norman had put K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang in the fifth match. Couples could have inserted Woods and Stricker, but instead went with Hunter Mahan and David Toms. That sealed it.
“Who’s left?” asked U.S. assistant captain Jay Haas as the room filled with laughter.
Norman said he did discuss it with Scott, and with his two assistant captains. The idea was to get it over with.
“If we had to diffuse anything and just get this thing over and done with, wouldn’t you rather have it sooner than later?” Norman said. “Because I personally wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting down at the singles and everybody is playing a really tight match and it comes down to the last group or the second to last group, and all of this pressure is coming on because it’s the first time the two met.”
“Adam and Tiger are good friends,” Norman said. “It’s got nothing to do with Adam and Tiger, and at the end of the day, the atmosphere that will exist walking to the first tee will be exactly the same if none of this took place in the past week.”
Couples also downplayed any hard feelings, trying to present this as any other match.
“I think it worked out awesome for everybody involved to have Adam and Tiger play,” Couples said. “As we said all along, they are still very good friends, and I think it’s an exciting match.”
“It’s not just Adam Scott and Tiger Woods,” he said. “There’s 22 other players here.”
Adam and Tiger good friends? Yeah, they play practice rounds together all the time and chitchat while they change their shoes in the locker room. Wait, no they don’t. But maybe Norman and Freddie think if they say it enough times, they’ll actually start to believe it.
Oh, I almost forgot! — here’s the rest of the line-up (names in bold are the pair I think will win):
MATCH 1 – Ernie Els-Ryo Ishikawa, International vs. Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson, U.S.
MATCH 2 – Bill Haas-Nick Watney, U.S. vs. Geoff Ogilvy-Charl Schwartzel, International
MATCH 3 – Aaron Baddeley-Jason Day, International vs. Dustin Johnson-Matt Kuchar, U.S.
MATCH 4 – Phil Mickelson-Jim Furyk, U.S. vs. Retief Goosen-Robert Allenby, International (I think this match has the potential to be a really fun train wreck to watch.)
MATCH 5 – K.T. Kim-Y.E. Yang, International vs. Hunter Mahan-David Toms, U.S.
MATCH 6 – Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker, U.S. vs. Adam Scott-K.J. Choi, International
I’m really not sure on Tiger v. Stevie. I literally tossed a coin. OK, your picks?
(AP Photo/Matt York, File)