Adam Scott and KJ Choi were relentless on Thursday at Royal Melbourne in dishing out the worst loss for Tiger Woods in any format of match play.
The International pair won 7 and 6, tying the record for biggest margin of victory in Presidents Cup history. And Woods and Stricker, undefeated two years ago, turned out to be the only weak link for the Americans.
The US won three matches handily, and rallied to halve two other matches to build a 4-2 lead after the opening session.
Woods and Stricker, winners of their first six matches together, now have lost their last two — 6 and 5 last year in the Ryder Cup to Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, and 7 and 6 to Scott and Choi. What looked particularly bad about this one is the American tandem didn’t win a hole and was the only team that failed to make a single birdie.
They will get new partners for Friday’s fourballs matches. Woods will play with Dustin Johnson, while Stricker will play with Matt Kuchar. It will be the first time since 2007 that Woods plays with anyone but Stricker.
The only other match that went 12 holes since the Presidents Cup began in 1994 was when David Frost beat Kenny Perry by the same score in singles in 1996.
“Unfortunately, they got off to a quick start and we just couldn’t keep up,” Woods said. “We kept falling to the wrong side of these slopes. The golf course is so difficult; it’s hard to make up shots.”
Keeping the pressure up
Two of the six matches went the distance. Geoff Ogilvy and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel lost a late 2-up lead and had to settle for a halve against Bill Haas and Nick Watney. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar rallied from 3 down with six holes to play and won the last two holes with pars to earn an unlikely halve.
“It did not look like 4-2 about an hour and a half ago,” US captain Fred Couples said. “We’ll take that any day.”
It was the third straight time in the Presidents Cup that the Americans won the opening session. They are 6-1-1 in this competition, the only loss coming 13 years ago at Royal Melbourne.
The Americans won the other three matches in a rout, led by the opening match of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. They were 7 under through 16 holes in a 4-and-2 win over Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, together for the first time since Brookline in the 1999 Ryder Cup, won 4 and 3 over Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby. Hunter Mahan and David Toms drilled the South Korean duo of YE Yang and KT Kim, 6 and 5.
“The only hole that they won, we three-putted,” Toms said. “So for the most part, we kept the pressure on, hitting fairways, hitting greens, made a few putts. Just a good day overall.”
‘A very pleasing victory’
Woods and former caddie Steve Williams exchanged a firm, businesslike handshake on the opening hole and otherwise kept their distance. That was about all the drama in what might be the final chapter of this bitter split between player and caddie.
Williams now works for Scott, who was crisp off the tee and into the firm greens. He rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to win the 11th hole, then hit an approach into 8 feet as Choi made the birdie to close out the match.
Scott and Choi never came close to a bogey and were 4 under through 12 holes. Woods and Stricker were 3 over.
“It seemed like we were just a little bit off,” Stricker said after his first competition since September 25 at the Tour Championship. “It seemed like I put him in the rough by a foot or so. If you’re in the rough here, trying to hit to some of these greens is pretty difficult.”
Scott called it a “very pleasing victory”, more to do with being home in Australia than anything to do with his caddie.
“A good win, because they were a tough team last time, took a lot of points off us,” Scott said. “So it was pleasing to get one up there.”
Williams first showed the animosity in the split when he said after Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational that it was the “best win of my life”. Then came that night in Shanghai two weeks ago at a caddies’ award party, when Williams made a racial comment about Woods while getting roasted for that TV interview at the Bridgestone.
The handshake on the first tee was symbolic — it was strictly business out there.
Williams was on the second tee when Choi was hitting in alternate shot. Not long after Woods arrived to watch his partner, Williams walked up the fairway to join Scott about 40 yards away.
The final handshake also was brief, and it happened much sooner than anyone might have expected. It was the first time in any match Woods has played that he failed to play the 14th hole.
For the longest time, it looked as though the day would end in a tie. International captain Greg Norman did not lose hope.
“We had the ability to go out there and win more points than we did,” Norman said. “Day one is day one. It’s a four-day event.” — Sapa-AP