It all started with Mark O’Meara on an autumn morning in Sotogrande, Spain. That’s when a 21-year-old Tiger Woods teamed with his older buddy to defeat Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer in his first career match in a professional team competition. They played together twice more that week – both losses – before the young Masters champion was shuttled over to Justin Leonard, with whom he earned a half-point.
One year later at the Presidents Cup, Woods paired with Fred Couples (win), Leonard (loss), Couples again (loss) and – in one of the more forgettable partnerships of his career – John Huston (loss). If you’re scoring at home, that’s four partners in his first two team events. And it didn’t end there.
Since then, Woods has played with … (deep breath, everyone) … Tom Lehman, David Duval, Steve Pate, Notah Begay, Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia, Davis Love III, Charles Howell III, Phil Mickelson, Chris Riley, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson.
Whew. A guy can bust a few brain cells just trying to remember ‘em all. “I've had all different types of partners,” Woods says with a knowing smile. Apparently it’s enough to make him start sounding like Dr. Seuss. “Guys who hit the ball for miles, guys who are short. Guys who are pretty mellow, guys who are pretty volatile,” he continues. “I've had it all.” The grand total? Eighteen different partners – and he might be about to add to that total this week.
On the eve of this year’s edition of the Presidents Cup, captain Fred Couples has intimated that Woods may be paired with Matt Kuchar or Jason Dufner – or both – in addition to Stricker, who at this point is practically Ol’ Reliable on that aforementioned list.
“Everyone wants to play with Tiger. You can only get one partner,” said Couples, now in his third tour of duty leading the team. “I can't tell someone who to play with.” Actually, that’s exactly what he can do. But that’s another story for another column.
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