The President’s Cup wasted no time delivering the match everyone was talking about — Tiger Woods against ex-caddie Steve Williams in the opening session at Royal Melbourne.
By the way, three other players will join them.
U.S. captain Fred Couples and International captain Greg Norman, hopeful of putting an end to a three-month soap opera involving Woods and Williams, put them together in the last of six foursomes matches Thursday.
“I think it’s great for the tournament,” Norman said. “It needed to be done.”
Williams, of course, will be carrying the bag of Adam Scott, not hitting any golf shots.
On paper it will be Woods and Steve Stricker, undefeated as a tandem two years ago at Harding Park, against K.J. Choi and Scott, the popular Australian who hired Williams after Woods fired his caddie of 12 years this summer.
For sheer drama and some fun, it’s more about Woods and Williams.
It will be the first time Woods and Williams have been in the same group of any tournament since Woods officially fired him in late July. Norman expects nothing but a good match between four players, with four other guys carrying their bags.
“I’m sure Freddie and I — everybody — we want to put this behind us,” Norman said. “It’s a dead issue as far as we’re concerned. There’s no animosity between any of the players. I know it’s good fodder. People like to talk about it in the media. But from our perspective, it’s dead and gone. And we would like to keep that way going forward.”
The acrimonious split became evident when Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational, and Williams allowed himself to be interviewed on the 18th green at Firestone and called it “the best win of my life.” This from a caddie who was with Woods for 13 of his majors.
While getting roasted in Shanghai two weeks ago at a caddies party, Williams was asked about the interview while accepting his mock “Celebration of the Year” award and said, “It was my aim to shove it up his black (expletive).”
Williams later apologized, Scott said it was enough for him, and even Woods tried to close the ordeal by saying they shook hands in a gym in Sydney and saying that Williams was not a racist.
Norman and Couples said the match wasn’t planned, although both could have chosen to avoid it.
In the Presidents Cup, each captain takes turn putting his team in one of the six matches. With each announced match, anticipation kept building until it came down to Couples.
Norman had put K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang in the fifth match. Couples could have inserted Woods and Stricker, but instead went with Hunter Mahan and David Toms. That sealed it.
“Who’s left?” U.S. assistant captain Jay Haas as the room filled with laughter.
Norman said he did discuss it with Scott, and with his two assistant captains. The idea was to get it over with.
“If we had to diffuse anything and just get this thing over and done with, wouldn’t you rather have it sooner than later?” Norman said. “Because I personally wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting down at the singles and everybody is playing a really tight match and it comes down to the last group or the second to last group, and all of this pressure is coming on because it’s the first time the two met.”
“Adam and Tiger are good friends,” Norman said. “It’s got nothing to do with Adam and Tiger, and at the end of the day, the atmosphere that will exist walking to the first tee will be exactly the same if none of this took place in the past week.”
Couples also downplayed any hard feelings, trying to present this as any other match.
“I think it worked out awesome for everybody involved to have Adam and Tiger play,” Couples said. “As we said all along, they are still very good friends, and I think it’s an exciting match.”
“It’s not just Adam Scott and Tiger Woods,” he said. “There’s 22 other players here.”
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson will lead off for the Americans against Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa. Watson beat Simpson in a playoff at New Orleans, and they recently discussed a desire to play with each other.
Bill Haas and Nick Watney will face Geoff Ogilvy and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel in the second match, followed by Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar against a pair of Australians in Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day.
Phil Mickelson, the only player to compete in every Presidents Cup, will play with Jim Furyk against Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby.
Even so, Royal Melbourne was buzzing with the prospect of Woods and Williams on the same tee, this time on different teams. Norman made it clear, though, what Williams’ role would be. Williams also used to work for Norman in the 1990s.
“His job is to carry Adam Scott’s bag,” Norman said. “It doesn’t matter whether they are playing Tiger Woods or not.”
It will be some extra fun and can’t help but bring some extra buzz to what will be a great event and match.