MELBOURNE—The United States team will enter the fourth of five sessions of matches in the 13th Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne four points in arrears of their International opponents. And there is nothing U.S. captain Tiger Woods can do about reducing that deficit.
In an outwardly perplexing move that surprised just about everyone—including International skipper Ernie Els—Woods made the decision to sit out a second consecutive session. The 15-time major champion, who won both of his matches on days one and two, was also absent from the Saturday morning four-ball matches his side lost 2 1/2 to 1 1/2.
“You have to do what's best for the team, and I'm getting ready for the singles tomorrow,” was Woods’ response to the predictable opening question: why aren’t you playing this afternoon?
The follow-up was equal obvious: Did your assistants agree with your decision, or did they try to talk you out of it?
And this time a slightly more revealing answer resulted. Clearly, the captain’s assistants Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Fred Couples had all tried to get their skipper to tee-up in the afternoon foursomes.
“I tried to talk myself out of it, too,” confirmed a deadpan Woods. “But, you know, it is what it is. We’re going to go out there and try and get some points today and be ready for tomorrow.”
And no, Tiger is not injured. We know this because he said so.
All of which was clearly not what Els was expecting to hear.
“I am surprised Tiger is not playing, especially the way he's been playing with J.T. (Justin Thomas),” said the South African, who will surely not be complaining about the absence of the man who has perhaps been the best player on the U.S. side so far. “But J.T. has been a rock-solid on their side, and looks like he's teaming well with Rickie (Fowler).
“But yeah, I thought Tiger would play this afternoon.”
Saturday Afternoon Foursomes
Match 15: Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott (INT) vs. Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland (USA)
Match 16: Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer (INT) vs. Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler (USA)
Match 17: Cameron Smith/Sungjae Im (INT) vs. Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA)
Match 18: Byeong Hun An/Joaquin Niemann (INT) vs. Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau (USA)