Harrington breathes sigh of relief as he avoids dreaded Tiger pairing
WHEW! Padraig Harrington was prominent among those breathing a hefty sigh of relief yesterday as American Matt Kuchar and Korea's KJ Choi drew the short straw at the Masters.
Kuchar and Choi will play in the eye of the storm with Tiger Woods tomorrow and on Friday when the four-time Masters champion plays his first competitive rounds in nearly five months.
There's logic behind this draw; Choi (39) claimed one of his seven US PGA Tour titles at the inaugural AT&T Championship in 2007, the tournament hosted by Woods at Congressional.
"I'm very happy to play with Tiger," said Choi yesterday. Choi, whose best finish at the Masters was third behind Phil Mickelson in 2004, is more experienced than Kuchar, though the 31-year-old Atlanta native performed well amid the hullabaloo of his first round at the Masters with Woods in 1998.
As reigning US Amateur champion, he played with Woods the year after Tiger's first Major win at Augusta. Woods will go out at 6.42 Irish time tomorrow and at 3.35 on Friday.
Harrington plays with British Open champion Stewart Cink and South Africa's talented Masters rookie Charl Schwartzel (25) at 6.20 tomorrow and 3.13 on Friday, two groups ahead of Tiger.
"It's never easy being paired with Tiger in the opening two rounds at a tournament," said Harrington.
"Guys may beat him on Thursday and Friday but sometimes they don't have as good a weekend because of all the energy they've used up."
Rory McIlory tees it up with Colombia's Camilo Villegas and Kenny Perry of the US tomorrow at 5.36 and at 2.18 on Friday, while Graeme McDowell goes out at 1.34 tomorrow and at 4.41 on Friday with American David Toms and John Senden of Australia.
full masters draw in factfile