Presidents Cup: The four other matches you should be following
MONTREAL - Driving into the Presidents Cup today, I saw a sign outside a cheap hotel that read, simply, ‘Go Mike’.
There’s probably scores of those signs all over the place here today, because the biggest story in Canada is Mike Weir’s match-up against World No. 1 Tiger Woods.
There’s no denying the draw in this singles pairing, and given the fact that the Presidents Cup itself could well be won after the first three matches (the United States only needs three points to win), the Weir-Woods head-to-head will still give us a reason to stay tuned (there’s no way the fairways would be remotely as packed as they are today without this match).
Still, there are 11 other singles matches going off today, and a glance down the sheet reveals some intriguing pairings. Of course you’re going to be watching Woods and Weir. But here are four other matches you should follow as well.
Phil Mickelson vs. Vijay Singh: For anyone who’d hoped for a Woods-Rory Sabbatini match-up (for the junk-talking component), the Mickelson-Singh match-up brings a little bit of that flavor, the idea that these two guys, not the best of friends, will go at it out there.
There’s no love loss between Mickelson and Singh, since that 2005 dust-up at the Masters when Singh, playing with Mickelson, called a rules official and challenged the length of Mickelson’s spikes. Mickelson got a pass from the official, but the two had a heated exchange in the locker room following the round.
Nicklaus, asked if anything went into the decision to pit Lefty against Singh, said no. Player had simply thrown Singh out there, and Nicklaus looked at who had not been assigned a match. Not sure I buy that one.
Woody Austin vs. Angel Cabrera: There’s been no more gutsy player out there this week than Austin. Sure, his record (1-0-3)isn’t so hot, but it’s those halves that have made such a big difference to the American team. Austin singled handedly earned a crucial halve on Friday when partnered with David Toms by making birdie on the last three holes in their match against Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman. Then yesterday, in the afternoon four-balls, Austin, partnered with Mickelson, made a crucial birdie on 17 to help eventually earn another half point, this time against Adam Scott and Retief Goosen. When other players say “I’m just thrilled to be here,” it always smacks of sports cliche. This guy actually means it .
Cabrera has played better this week than his record (1-2) indicates - 10 birdies in his four-ball matches alone. Plus, he had to carry his Saturday partner, K.J. Choi, in his four-ball match against Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink, and might’ve won that match had Choi been able to make any putts. He’s a formidable presence on the golf course, and a crowd favorite.
Zach Johnson vs. Adam Scott: I think some of the bigger matches of the day could go against the U.S. It’s the ’smaller matches’, if you will, that could help keep the U.S. momentum going, and one of those matches is Johnson-Scott.
Both have played well all week. Johnson’s been steady, hasn’t lost a match all week, and though he hasn’t made many birdies, he hasn’t made many bogeys either. Scott hasn’t won a match yet, but he’s had a hot putter: Eight birdies in his four-ball matches.
Hunter Mahan vs. K.J. Choi: This should be a W in the International Team column, but Choi has been ineffectual this week. He’s struggled with the putter, and there have been questions about his health - though Player denies that there’s anything wrong with Choi.
Choi’s had a hell of a year - but so has Mahan. This is another late match that could factor into things, if the International Team can manage to mount a charge in earlier matches.
The Presidents Cup’s biggest slap in the face
This goes to the decision to put Jim Furyk in the day’s last match, against Retief Goosen. In any other event, putting Furyk in the anchor spot would be a vote of confidence, like saying the whole Cup could come down to the wire and there needs to be someone down there who can get the deciding point. But with the U.S. only needing to win three matches all day, there is little likelihood that the Cup will be decided by the 34th match. This is a meaningless match-up.
And it’s a slap in the face to Furyk. With perhaps the exception of David Toms, there has been no more steady player on either side than Furyk. He’s 3-1 in the Presidents Cup this year, has scored three points for the U.S., and he’s a veteran of past Presidents and Ryder cups. He should have been given a match in the meat of the order. Instead, he’s playing dead last, against a player who is 2-2 this week, and the sides of the fairways will be quiet save for the faraway roars of other matches that might matter.
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