MONTREAL (AP) — Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player needed only four words and about two seconds to set the marquee Sunday singles match in the Presidents Cup.
Nicklaus made the first move Saturday night, immediately calling out “Tiger Woods” with the U.S. selection for the fourth match. Player replied “Mike Weir” just as fast.
“What a feather in his cap it would be for him if he could beat Tiger,” Player said. “Tiger is a phenomenal player as we know. Mike Weir has nothing to lose. It would be a phenomenal day in his career if he could beat Tiger.”
Nicklaus left it up to Woods.
“I said, ‘Tiger, I don’t want to put it on your back, but what do you want to do? Do you want to play Mike or not?’
“He says, ‘Cap, I’ll play whoever you want to give me.’
“I said, “You don’t mind playing Mike?’
“He said, ‘No. If this is what you want to do and you think it will be good for the matches, I’m all for it.’
“I give Tiger credit. He had the choice to do it or duck it. And he did not duck it.”
Woods is used to facing stars in their home countries. In 1998 at Royal Melbourne, he beat Greg Norman 1-up. The American then beat Ernie Els 4 and 3 in 2003 at Fancourt.
“I think it will be a fun match,” Woods said. “We’re great friends, have been for years, and I think we’re really looking forward to it.”
Weir is 2-1 in Presidents Cup singles. He beat Phil Mickelson 4 and 3 in 2000, lost 3 and 1 to Jim Furyk in 2003 and beat Scott Verplank 3 and 2 in 2005.
“It’s going to be loud,” Weir said. “Hopefully, I can give them a lot to cheer about. I’ve been able to do it so far through three days, but tomorrow, obviously, anybody who plays with Tiger has got their hands full. But I’m playing well and I feel like if I can keep it up, it’s going to be a great match.”
Woods and Weir were paired together in the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. Woods shot a 72 to win, while Weir closed with an 80.
Mickelson and Furyk also drew interesting matchups.
After Player put Vijay Singh on the board for the third match, Nicklaus countered with Mickelson. There wasn’t any drama left when Furyk ended up with Retief Goosen in the last of the 12 matches. With the United States needing only three points to win, the overall result should be long decided by then, too.
Els and fellow South African Rory Sabbatini will play in the first two matches, with Sabbatini getting Verplank in the opener and Els drawing Lucas Glover.
Entertaining American player Woody Austin will face U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera in the fifth match, followed by Masters champion Zach Johnson and Australia’s Adam Scott; David Toms and South Africa’s Trevor Immelman; Stewart Cink and Australia’s Nick O’Hern; Steve Stricker and Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy; Hunter Mahan and South Korea’s K.J. Choi; and Charles Howell III and Australia’s Stuart Appleby.
MONIQUE DOES MONTREAL: Hunter Mahan is single, making him the only American player without a female companion. The U.S. wives made sure he wasn’t alone.
During a quick shopping spree – likely the idea of notorious prankster Barbara Nicklaus – they bought the 25-year-old Mahan a doll they named “Monique.”
“She came up on the elevator,” Scott Verplank said. “They had Hunter come down to see if it was OK if this woman came up to the room. So the doll came up. He didn’t take that too good, I don’t think.”
During one team function, the wives placed Monique in a chair at the table. And the ribbing continued on the bus ride to Royal Montreal, with everyone asking Mahan what happened to Monique.
“We haven’t seen her,” captain Jack Nicklaus said. “I think they had a fight last night.”
GOOD ON PAPER: One reason the Americans love playing for captain Jack Nicklaus is he lets them pick with whom they want to play. Nicklaus asked them to write down their preferred partners on a sheet of paper, and he did his best to accommodate them.
Not every player got every partner he requested, including Tiger Woods.
Standing on the 18th green after the Saturday morning foursomes, Nicklaus pulled out the master list.
Woods had said he listed three players, and they turned out to be Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and David Toms. So it was strange to see him get paired with Charles Howell III in the first session, a 3-and-1 victory.
“Charles wasn’t on his list, but they played together in South Africa and I asked Tiger he would like to play with him,” Nicklaus said. “And he said, ‘Absolutely.”‘
Nicklaus wanted to give Woods his other wish – Stricker – but Stricker was going great with Mahan.
“Other than that, I didn’t put anyone together who wasn’t on anyone’s list,” Nicklaus said.
Verplank might have been the only guy who got all three players he requested – well, sort of. Verplank said he asked for Stricker, Lucas Glover and Zach Johnson. Verplank won two matches with Glover, and he won his only match with Stricker.
As for Johnson?
They were partners in sitting out the Saturday afternoon fourballs.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: David Toms and Adam Scott were either very popular or were difficult to pair. They were the only two players at the Presidents Cup to play all four team matches with four partners.
Toms was paired with Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson in alternate shot, and with Woody Austin and Tiger Woods in better balls. Adam Scott went from Geoff Ogilvy to K.J. Choi to Ernie Els to Retief Goosen.
As for Woods, he has had 14 partners in the 10 times he has played in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
DIVOTS: David Toms (3-0-1), Scott Verplank (3-0-0) and Woody Austin (1-0-3) are the only undefeated players. Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker are all 3-1-0. … Mike Weir and Vijay Singh, teammates in two foursomes matches, lead the International team with 2-1-1 records. … K.J. Choi is the only player who has failed to earn a point. The South Korean star is 0-3-0. … Adam Scott (0-3-1) had not led all week until he and partner Retief Goosen won the 15th hole in the afternoon matches Saturday when Austin and Phil Mickelson made a bogey. Scott and Goosen also won the 16th, but lost the final two holes to end up with a halve. … Woods and Charles Howell III are the only players who have yet to play the 18th hole.