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Woods and Stricker tie worst loss in Presidents Cup history
Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker shut out
MELBOURNE, Australia -- The handshake between Tiger Woods and ex-caddie Steve Williams was routine. The loss by Woods and Steve Stricker turned out to be the real drama in the Presidents Cup.
Adam Scott and K.J. Choi were relentless Thursday at Royal Melbourne in dishing out the worst loss for Woods in any format of match play. The International tandem won 7 and 6, tying the record for biggest margin of victory in Presidents Cup history.
Woods and Stricker, undefeated two years ago, turned out to be the only weak link for the Americans.
They 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 -- including 6 and 5 last year in the Ryder Cup to Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. 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."
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. Johnson and 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," U.S. 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 Korean duo of Y.E. Yang and K.T. 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."
Woods and 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, and just like so many other team competitions, he had the best horse. Scott 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.
Day 2 pairings, Fourballs
5:35 p.m. -- Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, United States, vs. Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa, International.
5:49 p.m. -- Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, United States, vs. Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day, International.
6:03 p.m. -- Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, United States, vs. Adam Scott and K.T. Kim, International.
6:17 p.m. -- Bill Haas and Nick Watney, United States, vs. Geoff Ogilvy and K.J. Choi, International.
6:31 p.m. -- Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker, United States, vs. Y.E. Yang and Robert Allenby, International.
6:45 p.m. -- Hunter Mahan and David Toms, United States, vs. Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel, International.
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 Sept. 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."
1) No. 18 USC at No. 4 Oregon
Sat., Nov. 19 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC
All the pressure is on the Ducks. Every trend points to them and so do most of the matchups. A two-touchdown favorite, Oregon is supposed to win comfortably. Saddled with probation, the Trojans have far less to gain or lose.
When a game shapes up like this, normally we start to envision the unexpected. However, Oregon (9-1, 7-0 in Pac-12) could be the least uptight team in the nation. The Ducks simply march along at their own ultra-rapid pace and seem to get the job done with relative ease, particularly against USC (8-2, 5-2) in recent years.
Oregon has totaled 100 points in its last two games against the Trojans, coasting to a pair of victories. Duck running back LaMichael James enjoys playing against USC more than any other team. The junior has rushed for 422 yards and four scores in those two previous outings versus Tailback U.
For the past couple games, USC has started freshmen at all three linebacker spots. Their speed will serve them well, but those youngsters will have their hands full pre-snap, getting aligned properly against the Ducks’ hurry-up, and post-snap, dealing with lightening fast weaponry, which now includes De’Anthony Thomas, an L.A. product and one-time Trojan commit.
USC has been unsuccessful in its last five visits to the state of Oregon (losses to the Ducks in 2007 and 2009, and to Oregon State in 2006, 2008 and 2010) and has won only twice in its last seven trips to Eugene. If this game were in Los Angeles, we’d go with the upset.
Opening point spread: Oregon by 14 1/2
The pick: Oregon 42-31
3) No. 17 Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan
Sat., Nov. 19 — Noon ET, ESPN
The Cornhuskers did an admirable job blocking out all the distractions at Penn State last Saturday, coming away with a 17-14 victory that kept them in the running for the Big Ten’s Legends Division.
Michigan (8-2, 4-2 in the Big Ten) also won its game last week, taking care of Illinois, 31-14, but Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson picked up a slight injury to his right wrist. Michigan might not opt to go to the air too often against Nebraska, which allows a generous 161 yards rushing per game (eighth in the conference), but when Robinson does fling the football, a gimpy wrist won’t help him break his unfortunate streak of five consecutive games with an interception (total of 13 on the season).
This will be the second time this season that the Cornhuskers play on the road in consecutive weeks. In the first instance, Nebraska got whipped at Wisconsin, 48-17.
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who rushed for 192 yards on 27 carries last week versus the Fighting Illini, will be the home team’s hero.
Opening point spread: Michigan by 2 1/2
The pick: Michigan 28-23
5) No. 21 Penn State at Ohio State
Sat., Nov. 19 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC
Tom Bradley vs. Luke Fickell. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Joe Paterno vs. Jim Tressel, but if you dig deep enough through the muck, it’s still Penn State vs. Ohio State and both teams have a lot to play for on the football field.
Penn State (8-2, 5-1 in Big Ten) can clinch at least a share of the Leaders Division title with a victory over Ohio State (6-4, 3-3), which is still in the picture for the inaugural Legends Division championship.
Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing losses that saw them fall three points short. The Nittany Lions got beat, 17-14, by Nebraska at home, while the Buckeyes fell, 26-23, in overtime at Purdue.
Unlike the oddsmakers, we see this as a toss up and we’ll adopt the opinion that Penn State will find refuge and focus by being together as a team on the road.
Opening point spread: Ohio State by 7
The pick: Penn State 21-17