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Archive for Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Furyk next in line as Woods’ partner

American duo’s success could be crucial during this weekend’s Ryder Cup matches

September 20, 2006

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— On paper and in person, they look nothing alike.

Tiger Woods is sheer power, from his 12 major championships and 63 titles worldwide to his acclaim as the richest athlete and one of the most recognizable faces in the world.

Jim Furyk is a U.S. Open champion who grinds at his golf and is recognized only by his swing, which is not always a compliment. An analyst once described it as an octopus falling out of a tree.

Woods' reputation is the long ball.

Furyk is so accurate he can aim at stripes left by a lawn mower.

But they almost certainly will be partners in this Ryder Cup, a combination that makes sense only to them.

"We have some similarities, we have some differences and we get along pretty well," Furyk said Tuesday. "We partnered well at the Presidents Cup. There's no promises, obviously, but hopefully that continues. I enjoy playing golf with him, and I'm excited because I feel that's going to happen this week."

Woods and Furyk were together at The K Club during the first practice session leading to the start of Friday's matches, which was no surprise. U.S. captain Tom Lehman saw how they played at the Presidents Cup in October - a 2-0-1 record in team play - and listened to their requests that they be partners again.

Their success is crucial to an American team that has lost four of the last five times in the Ryder Cup.

For all his greatness in the majors, Woods has been nothing more than ordinary in the Ryder Cup. Even more surprising than his 7-11-2 record is that he rarely contributes anything on the opening day, which sets the tone for these matches.

Woods is 1-7 on Fridays at the Ryder Cup, riding an ugly streak of seven straight losses.

Furyk isn't much better.

He has shown his grit in singles by going unbeaten in four Ryder Cups, usually against Europe's strongest players, whether it's Nick Faldo or Sergio Garcia. But he is 1-9-1 in team matches.

"You want your best player to go out there and play well the first day and make a statement," Furyk said.

That was hardly the case last time.

U.S. captain Hal Sutton made his own statement by teaming Woods with Phil Mickelson, creating unity that ranks right up there with oil and water. They rarely spoke, barely smiled and lost both their matches as Europe went on to its largest victory ever.

Woods usually gets his way, but the world's No. 1 player had to wait a couple of years to get this request.

He was in the locker room at Firestone in 2003 going over a long list of partners in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup that was about to grow even more. He had already had 11 partners in five events.

"You know who I'd really love to play with? Jim Furyk," Woods said that day.

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