Why did Tiger Woods play little-known Richard Sterne in Sunday singles?

Tiger Woods and Richard Sterne shake hands after Woods defeated Sterne 1-up in Sunday singles. The victory clinched the Presidents Cup for the Americans.
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Perhaps th oddest singles pairing on Sunday was Tiger Woods, tops in the world rankings, going up against No. 41 Richard Sterne.

The galleries and media were clamoring for Woods to play Adam Scott, No. 2 in the world, or maybe a wily veteran like Angel Cabrera, winner of a couple of major championships during the Woods era.

Instead they got a little (5-foot-7, 150 pounds) and little known South African against the man who makes headlines with everything he does and says.

“It's when people want to go,'' U.S. captain Fred Couples said. “People just asked me, `Why did you put Tiger up against Richard?' Personally, Tiger has talked a little about Richard and his game this week. They have not played each other. But it just came to the point where Tiger goes anywhere from seventh to ninth in the singles (so his point will still matter) and we just didn't want to wait any longer. So we put him there.''

Still, Woods needed to go to the final hole and the final putt to hold off Sterne 1-up, also clinching the Cup for the United States.

“We made the pairings this morning to try to win the Cup,'' Price said. “Not to put 1 and 2 together, or 3 and 4 together.''

Despite the reverence afforded the captains' pairings – you would have thought it was Eisenhower and Montgomery planning D-Day – their strategy didn't produce a whole lot of interesting duos. They could have matched rookies Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth, for example, or maybe Ernie Els against Steve Stricker.

Beyond Angel Cabrera vs. Phil Mickelson, however, there weren't many sexy showdowns.

TIGER TIDBITS: Tiger Woods' mother, Kultida, greeted him by saying, “Keep it going, baby,'' as he walked between the fourth green and fifth tee. He just smiled and said, “Hi, mom.'' … Woods' girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, walked the course with Bill Haas' wife, Julie. The U.S. wives and girlfriends wore matching high, red rubber rain boots. … Sterne and Branden Grace were each 0-4-0 for the Internationals. … Woods led the Americans with four points and a 4-1-0 record while Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson were each 3-1-0 and Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker were each 3-2-0. … Woods said his back “acted up on 14 coming in and it just kept getting worse and worse.''

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