Gimme’ miss costs U.S.
For the briefest moment, it looked as though Justin Leonard only had to pick up his coin for the Americans to win the final match Thursday and take another big lead on opening day at the Presidents Cup.
First, there was some confusion over whether to concede his 3-foot putt.
Then came a shocking miss from Leonard.
The United States still wound up with a 3½-2½ lead at Harding Park, even if the International team claimed a partial victory.
“At the end, we were pretty fortunate to have 2½ points,” Ernie Els said. “That’s one of the better starts we’ve had, believe it or not, for the last three Cups or so. So we are not too despondent about today.”
After Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker dominated early, and Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim came to life late in their foursomes match, a bizarre finish in the final match made it unclear who actually had the momentum going into Friday.
“We wanted to get out of the day with pretty close to a push, and I’m very, very happy,” International captain Greg Norman said.
Leonard and Jim Furyk had a 1-up lead playing the par-5 18th hole, and Leonard hit a splendid fairway metal to the green that left the Americans on the verge of another full point, especially after Furyk lagged the eagle putt to 3 feet. Retief Goosen hit his approach right of the green, Y.E. Yang chipped to 4 feet and Goosen made the birdie putt.
Then, the Goose forgot the score.
He removed his cap and looked at Furyk as if to ask why Leonard should putt, believing the match was all square. Once he realized what was at stake, Leonard settled over the putt and was stunned when it caught the right lip.
Leonard made no excuses.
“I just hit a bad putt,” he said. “I knew I was going to need to make that little putt. Unfortunately, I missed it.”
Woods and Stricker played bogey-free in the difficult alternate-shot format, teaming up for six birdies in a 6-and-4 victory over Geoff Ogilvy and 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.
Stricker, Woods a happy duo
Fred Couples has always liked to keep things simple, and his pairings in the Presidents Cup reflect that.
It makes it easier, of course, when you listen to who your top player wants to partner with. Tiger Woods won big with Steve Stricker in the opening alternate ball matches, and they will play again Friday, this time against Geoff Ogilvy and Angel Cabrera.
That Woods and Stricker should be comfortable with each other is no surprise. They were paired together in seven rounds during the PGA Tour playoffs, and they may play together all week here.
Finding Woods a partner he is happy with could be a key to the President’s Cup. In recent team competitions, Woods has clearly been out of sorts with his partner, including his infamous pairing with Mickelson at the Ryder Cup.
“I was comfortable having him as my partner, but I wanted to make sure he was comfortable having me as his partner, just because I didn’t want to feel like he had to hold up my end as well as his end,” Stricker said.
Couples said way too much is made of the way players are paired together because in the end they are all very good players.
“Greg could make my pairings and think he’s doing a horrible job and I can take his and think I’m doing a horrible job; they are still six great teams,” Couples said. “It’s not that difficult.”
Woods, Stricker get a little help
As incidents go, it was almost comical. And Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker hardly needed any help anyway.
But on a day when almost everything seemed to go bad for Ryo Ishikawa and Geoff Ogilvy, a ringing cell phone and a fan who couldn’t keep his mouth shut added to their misery.
The International team members were already 1-down in their match on the third hole when Ogilvy ran into problems while trying to putt for a par that would have given them a halve. By the time he missed the putt, Woods was apologizing to him even though both he and Stricker were blameless.
“Tiger did a classy thing and apologized for that, not that he had anything to do with it, but we hate to see stuff like that happen,” Stricker said.
What happened was the phone of a course marshal standing near the green started ringing as Ogilvy stood over his putt. When he backed off and then stood over it again, the phone rang again.
The players and their caddies looked into the crowd to see who the offender was, and it turned out to be a marshal. But he apparently was not familiar with how to turn his phone off and it rang several more times before he finally retreated out of sight.
Stricker said he thought it went off seven different times, but Woods held up five fingers to indicate it wasn’t that much. But when Ogilvy went to finally hit the putt, a fan yelled out a reference from the movie “Caddyshack” and he ended up missing it.
“You know the only part that was intentional was the guy yelling out, which was absolutely uncalled for,” Woods said. “And this is not what golf is all about.”
Woods and Stricker went on to beat Ogilvy and Ishikawa 6 and 4 in the alternate shot format, the biggest win by any team on the day.