MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Defending champion Tiger Woods will play the first two rounds of the U.S. Open with Padraig Harrington and Angel Cabrera, giving fans at Bethpage Black a chance to see the reigning champions of all four majors.
Harrington won the British Open and the PGA Championship last year, while Cabrera won the Masters in April.
U.S. Open officials decided against grouping the top three players in the world ranking, as they did last year at Torrey Pines. That would have put Woods with sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson for the second straight year, joined by Paul Casey.
Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition for the USGA, told The Associated Press last week that a Woods-Mickelson pairing was an experiment, and it made sense to try it at Torrey Pines, where both played much of their junior golf.
Mickelson, who only decided to play the U.S. Open last week while his wife battles cancer, will have a mixed bag of memories in his grouping. He will play with Ernie Els, whom he beat by one shot for his first major victory at the 2004 Masters; and Retief Goosen, who beat Mickelson in 2004 at Shinnecock Hills the last time the U.S. Open was held on Long Island.
The rest of the grouping were a mixture of countries and colleges, identical surnames and young stars.
Rickie Fowler, an amateur from Oklahoma State, is to hit the first tee shot next Thursday on No. 1 and will have some alumni at his side. He is playing with Casey Wittenberg and Bo Van Pelt, who both played for the Cowboys.
The all-Clemson group can be found on the first tee at 1:03 p.m. on Thursday when Lucas Glover, D.J. Trahan and Kyle Stanley tee it up. Stanley, still in college, qualified this week in Ohio.
Vijay Singh will be in the same group with Jeev Milkha Singh. Players often say they’re in jail when they find themselves in trouble on the golf course, so this will at least sound like it.
U.S. Senior Open champion Eduardo Romero will be playing with Andres Romero, both from Argentina, not related. The USGA was able to mix-and-match with the grouping of Soren Kjeldsen, Soren Hansen and Peter Hanson.
The heartache group includes Kenny Perry, who has lost two majors in a playoff; Rocco Mediate, the runner-up at the U.S. Open last year after a 19-hole playoff against Woods; and Tom Lehman, who played in the final pairing at the U.S. Open four straight years in the 1990s without ever winning.
Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott — all in their 20s and good friends — will be in the same group, but the star power of youth might come from a group that includes 23-year-old Anthony Kim and 20-year-old Rory McIlroy, both among the top 20 in the world. Joining them will be Dustin Johnson, a 24-year-old who has won twice since September.
Bethpage Black is a big, tough course at 7,246 yards, and one group should have the length to handle it. That includes J.B. Holmes and Alvaro Quiros of Spain, two of the longest hitters in golf.