Kuchar-Woods pairing is perfect fit at perfect time for Captain Couples

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October 05, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar finally found themselves involved in a tight match Saturday afternoon. That meant the Fresh Prince birdie celebrations went into hiding, replaced by serious game faces.

The fact that Woods and Kuchar trailed for most of their Four-ball match against Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama also meant the American duo can be challenged, pushed to the limits.

The fact that Woods and Kuchar ultimately pulled out another win to remain perfect for this week's Presidents Cup simply meant that Fred Couples knows the best approach to picking Tiger's partner. Which is to say, asking Tiger what he thinks and then staying the heck out of the way unless circumstances dictate otherwise.

Woods and Kuchar have won their first three matches, the only partnership with an unblemished record this week. They have one more match against Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge in Foursomes that will be completed Sunday morning at Muirfield Village.

If you think it's no big deal that Tiger is 3-0, then you need to reconsider your stance. Only one other time in his Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup career has Woods started a team competition winning his first three matches -- 2009 when he and Steve Stricker won all four of their matches at Harding Park.

Tiger had fun then with his good buddy and occasional putting advisor. He's certainly having fun now with Kuchar.

"He's had a great partner in Stricker. Those two are a fantastic fit together," Kuchar said. "I wasn't sure I was going to change that setup."

Earlier this week, Kuchar and Stricker were joking about being "interchangeable" partners for Tiger. That's not a bad thing. On the course, they offer consistency and dependability. Lots of fairways, lots of greens, pretty handy with the putter.

Of the course, they both know the right buttons to push.

For Kuchar, it's a positive personality with a sharp wit and even sharper jab. He can give as good as he gets, and he isn't afraid to throw some good-natured smack at the world's No. 1.

"I think I may relax him a little bit out there," Kuchar said.

It also helps that this week's venue is Muirfield Village. Each player's success on this course at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance has been well-documented: Tiger's five wins, Kuchar the defending champ. Tiger doesn't have to teach his partner the nuances of Jack's place.

That knowledge was put to the test Saturday.  

After two easy wins in which they never reached the final two holes, Woods and Kuchar had to actually sweat against Scott and Matsuyama. They lost two of the first three holes and Kuchar wasn't contributing much. Had Tiger not been on fire -- five birdies in his first 13 holes -- the deficit might have been too big to overcome.

"Adam and Hideki have been an awesome team," Couples said. "I think Tiger and Kuch wanted to play their best and show them that they can play with them. And they did."

Kuchar finally won his first hole of the day at the 14th to give the duo its first lead. Tiger followed with an eagle to win the next hole. (Watch his stuck fairway wood on the par-5 15th)

Even then, the match came down to the 18th hole, the Americans 1 up.

Kuchar struck his approach in close. Scott's approach was even better. If Kuchar missed his birdie putt and Scott made his, the Internationals would win the hole and halve the match.

Scott never got the chance to putt. Kuchar drained the birdie putt to seal win No. 3.

"Kuch, man, what a birdie on 18," Woods said.

For the most part, though, Woods carried the day. "This guy is a horse," Kuchar said. "Holy Cow. He played some incredible golf today. I was along for the ride for most of it."

The two may need to kick it up a notch on Sunday morning after falling behind early to Els and de Jonge. Maybe more heroics will be in store.

After that, it's the singles session. Woods and Kuchar will finally go their separate ways. That's OK. Not even the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff hung out together all the time.

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