Pairings set for opening Four-BallsOctober 02, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar have enjoyed plenty of success as individuals at Muirfield Village. Now they'll get the opportunity to succeed together.
The two Americans are paired against the International duo of Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman in one of the six Four-Ball matches that will be played in Thursday's opening day of The Presidents Cup.
Captains Fred Couples of the U.S. and Nick Price of the International Team, along with their assistants, announced their selections Wednesday in The Presidents Cup's traditional alternating format.
The pairings are as follows (in order of their announced selections). The first tee time is 11:45 a.m. ET.
Match 1: Jason Day and Graham DeLaet, International vs. Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker, U.S. (preview and prediction)
Match 2: Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, U.S. vs. Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, International (preview and prediction)
Match 3: Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, International vs. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, U.S. (preview and prediction)
Match 4: Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth, U.S. vs. Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge, International (preview and prediction)
Match 5: Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, International vs. Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods, U.S. (preview and prediction)
Match 6: Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, U.S. vs. Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, International (preview and prediction)
After Price announced his fifth pairing of Cabrera and Leishman -- both of whom finished in the top five at the Mastes earlier this year -- Couples countered with Woods and Kuchar instead of saving the duo for the final match of the day.
"We felt like Woods would be good in the five slot, and that's almost where we had him from the get-go, to clean up and hopefully get a point for us," Couples said.
Woods has won the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance five times, while Kuchar is the defending champ and has not finished lower than 10th in his last five appearances at Muirfield Village.
Cabrera and Leishman face a tall task, but Price is confident his duo can put up a good fight. Leishman is one of his two Captain's picks.
"It is a baptism of fire for him," Price said, "but Marc is very capable. He and Angel played very well yesterday together and they make a good team."
Said Leishman: "It's definitely going to be a tough match. We are both playing reasonably well and I think we have got a good chance."
The U.S. had the right to make the first selection as the defending champ but elected to defer. The Internationals, making the first selection, opted for Day and DeLaet as their leadoff pairing.
"Those two guys were very keen to get going," said International captain Nick Price.
The Americans then countered with Mahan and Snedeker, the latter making his first Presidents Cup appearance.
There were no surprises with any of the pairings on either side, as the two captains showed their hands during the practice sessions.
"It's not rocket science," Couples said. "Everyone plays."
Spieth, the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year who had a hole-in-one during Wednesday's pratice round, will be paired with the veteran Stricker, a combination that has been discussed for several weeks. Mickelson and Bradley, so impressive in last year's Ryder Cup, are together again.
Four of the five South Africans are paired together. The one who isn't is Els, who will take de Jonge of Zimbabwe under his wing. Scott, the Masters champ and points leader for the International Team who is playing in his sixth Presidents Cup, will partner with Matsuyama, the only player from either side who has never played at Muirfield Village.
"I don't think Hideki Matsuyama has ever played golf with a partner before, so this is new ground for him, and that's why I put him with Adam," Price said. "Adam will give him a lot of confidence and also be a great support for him."
The Four-Ball format is being used on the first day for the first time since 1996. The Internationals have struggled in first-day Foursomes in the last three Presidents Cup, outpointed 13-5 in that stretch. In 2007, the U.S. took a 5-point advantage after the first day and never looked back.
"Because of the dynamics of our team and where they all come from," Price said, "it's very difficult to put a great Foursomes pairing together right from the get-go."
Last year, Price and Els went to PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and asked that the schedule be changed to start with Four-Balls instead of Foursomes. The commissioner agreed to make the switch, with the first set of Foursome matches set for Friday.
"Both Ernie and I felt it was very important just to change it from the hardest format being the alternate-shot foursomes to the better ball," Price said. "That was a positive move, I think, certainly for us."
Couples said the switch is fine with him.
"I think that's a great move," he said. "Nick has a lot of young players. It's much easier to play your own ball, to get going."