The pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker that cut a swathe through the Internationals team at the 2009 Presidents Cup could again be set to terrorise the hosts at Royal Melbourne this week, if Woods has his way.
The American pair combined to win all four of their matches in a tournament first to carry their team to an emphatic victory at San Francisco two years ago.
Team captain Fred Couples could be tempted to re-unite them for a tilt at a fourth successive American victory.
World No. 5 Stricker on Monday declared himself fit after a lengthy layoff with a neck injury and Woods was thrilled to see him in full swing during Tuesday’s first official practice.
“I was pleased and excited to see what Strick was able to do today,” the 14-times Major champion told reporters.
“He was hitting the ball a long way. I mean, he hit the ball solid, had some distance and had some pop on his swing … He was beating the ball down so that’s a great sign. He wasn’t sore; wasn’t flinching. He was great,” added the former world No. 1, who is still battling to master his re-engineered swing.
“Hopefully we’ll get put out there together. 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, and we know each other’s games for the years that we have been on these Cups.”
Woods, who stroked the winning putt in San Francisco, will saddle up for his seventh Presidents Cup after a dismal season plagued by knee and Achilles injuries.
Winless in two years since his personal life unravelled, Woods’s selection as one of Couples’s two captain’s picks had drawn criticism, not least from Internationals captain Greg Norman.
Third place at last week’s Australian Open helped silence the doubters and US assistant John Cook warned that Woods will want to ram criticism down the throats of his critics.
“He wants to make sure that he’s warranted that pick,” Cook said.
“Anybody that’s just jumped off that wagon, they jumped off way too quick because I have a feeling this guy will make people eat their words … I look forward to that moment when he does something that they figured he could never do again, and he’s going to do it a lot more.”
Woods was a part of the only losing US team in the Cup’s history at Royal Melbourne in 1998 but has prospered on the courses of Melbourne’s famed “sand belt”, where he won his last tournament at the 2009 Australian Masters.
Some 13 years older and boasting “way more shots” than his Cup debut, Woods felt the course’s slick greens would play nicely into his hands.
“My swing is more suited to faster greens,” said Woods, currently ranked 50th in the world.
“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t think I’ve done well on the golf courses that are hard and fast, Majors and other tournaments that are more difficult, speed of the greens are faster … I just feel more comfortable with that.” — Reuters