x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

US open up lead as Tiger Woods and ex-caddie keep their distance

Americans lead 4-2 after the morning foursomes, as Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker lose 7&6 to Adam Scott and KJ Choi.

MELBOURNE // Being with his ex-caddie was the least of Tiger Woods' worries today.

Woods and Steve Stricker, unbeatable two years ago, did not make a birdie, did not win a hole and tied the record for the biggest defeat in the history of the Presidents Cup.

Adam Scott and KJ Choi were relentless at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, keeping the ball in play and making enough birdies as Woods and Stricker self-destructed.

The International side won, 7&6. They were the last of the six foursomes matches in the opening session, yet the rout was so great that they were the second match to finish.

Two of the six matches went the distance. Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel, the Masters champion, 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 three down with six holes to play and were headed to the 18th as they tried to scratch out a halve against Jason Day and Aaron Baddeley.

The Americans won the other three matches in a rout, led by the opening match of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. They were seven-under through 16 holes in a 4&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&3 over Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby.

Hunter Mahan and David Toms drilled the Korean duo of YE Yang and KT Kim, 6&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 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, 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, that hit an approach into eight feet as Choi made the birdie to close out the match.

It was the worst margin of defeat for Woods in any form of match play since he turned professional.

"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."

Scott and Choi never came seriously close to a bogey and were four-under through 12 holes. Woods and Stricker were three-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 a "very pleasing victory," more to do with being home in Australia than anything to do with his caddie.

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.