Friday 24 November 2017

Struggling Woods has to prove his worth for US in President’s Cup

TIGER Woods still has to prove he was worth a wild card for this week's Presidents Cup - but America still lead by two points.

After suffering his worst-ever match play defeat alongside Steve Stricker in the opening foursomes at Royal Melbourne, Woods had Dustin Johnson as his new partner in the second day fourballs.

At least they took it to the final green rather than crashing 7&6, but a four-foot par putt by Aaron Baddeley gave him and fellow Australian Jason Day a one-up victory.

Greg Norman's International side had to settle for sharing the session 3-3 in the windy conditions, however, and so head into the weekend trailing 7-5.

It could have been worse. With two games left on the course it was 7-3, but Geoff Ogilvy and KJ Choi defeated Bill Haas and Nick Watney on the last and Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel got the better of Hunter Mahan and David Toms 2&1.

"It was a tough day," Woods said. "Just trying to hit the greens was a heck of an accomplishment. Wedges weren't holding, balls were oscillating on the greens."

He is already the only American who has yet to make a contribution towards their bid for a fourth successive win - and this is the first time he has lost his first two games since the 2004 Ryder Cup in Detroit.

That was the week he and Phil Mickelson failed to gel - they have not been paired together since - but Mickelson is having far more success with Jim Furyk.

They won for the second day running, beating Adam Scott and KT Kim 2&1, while Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson gave the Americans a winning start against Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa again, this time 3&1.

The other winners for Fred Couples' team were Stricker and Matt Kuchar. They beat Robert Allenby and YE Yang 4&3.

Couples has not given up on Woods yet, though.

The Saturday morning foursomes is the first session when two players from each side are rested, but Couples has stuck with Woods and Johnson and rested Stricker and Watney instead.

The former world number one has a chance for revenge too. It is his first day conquerors Scott and Choi that he faces again.

Norman, meanwhile, leaves out his other two Koreans Yang and Kim and, perhaps surprisingly, keeps together Els and Ishikawa after their two losses.

At least they do not have to take on Watson and Simpson once more, playing Haas and Kuchar instead.

The third day also comprises five afternoon fourballs and the match finishes with 12 singles on Sunday.

Woods did at least manage his first birdie of the week when he holed from 24 feet on the fourth, but remarkably it is the only hole he has won in two games.

He and Johnson both bogeyed the eighth and Baddeley's 23-footer at the 13th put him and Day in front.

Baddeley had made a complete mess of the finish on day one, but made amends. With Day bogeying the last two holes his partner holed from three feet for victory on the 18th.

"I was very disappointed yesterday. I feel like I let Jason down," Baddeley said. "So it was great to come through."

Mickelson and Furyk were three-up with seven to play and after losing the 12th and 16th Furyk holed from 13 feet for the win.

Kuchar coped with the conditions the best. He birdied the third and sixth, won the fifth as well with a par and settled things with further birdies at the 12th and 15th.

Haas eagled the driveable 11th as he and Watney levelled from two down, but they both then bogeyed the next and could not get back on terms.

Watson and Simpson were never behind in the top game and the same was true of Goosen and Schwartzel down at the tail.

Saturday morning will also, of course, see Woods and his former caddie Steve Williams facing each other again.

But Woods has decided to make no great issue of the New Zealander's racist comment about him in China two weeks ago and all that will be on his mind is trying to open his account.

Press Association

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