News & Opinion

Tiger Woods picks himself to lead Presidents Cup opener

U.S. player-captain will pair with Justin Thomas in 1st match of four-balls session against Internationals at Royal Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia – U.S. captain Tiger Woods made noise early by picking himself to play in the first four-ball matches with good friend Justin Thomas here Thursday in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Woods, who decided to compete as a playing captain after winning the Zozo Championship last month in Japan, seemed itching to make an early statement for a U.S. team that by all accounts has more firepower than an International squad that includes seven rookies.

U.S. captain Tiger Woods and assistant Fred Couples share a laugh during the media session announcing the Presidents Cup pairings.

“I think from our side, we had a game plan, who we wanted to start out, and we were committed to putting Justin and myself out there, and that's who we're rolling with,” Woods said of his decision.

Australian Marc Leishman and Chilean rookie Joaquin Niemann will face Thomas and Woods at 9:32 a.m. local time (with Australia being 16 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, it will be 5:32 p.m. Wednesday EST).

In eight Presidents Cup appearances, Woods has compiled a 7-9-0 record in four-ball matches. Thomas is 2-0-0. Leishman is 0-4-0.

“We've had a plan, and this is the way we figured it,” Els said of pairing five rookies with five veterans. “I can't give you exactly what we're doing in the team room, but you know, we've got a system, and we're following that; let's put it that way.”

The second match, at 9:47 a.m. (5:47 p.m. Wednesday EST), consists of three rookies: U.S. duo Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay versus South Korean Sungjae Im, who will be paired with Canadian Adam Hadwin. In his only Presidents Cup four-ball, Hadwin teamed with Adam Scott in 2017 to halved their match against Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Australia’s Scott and South Korean rookie Byeong Hun An will play U.S. rookies Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau at 10:02 a.m. (6:02 p.m. EST). Scott is 3-9-3 in the format, with his most recent victory having come in 2013 with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama when they defeated Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Matsuyama and rookie C.T. Pan from Taiwan will play Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed at 10:17 a.m. (6:17 p.m. Wednesday EST). Matsuyama is a 1-2-2 in four-balls, with his only victory coming in 2015 with Sangmoon Bae, by 6 and 5 over Chris Kirk and Jimmy Walker. Simpson is 2-1-1 and Reed is 2-0-1 in four-balls.

“We've had game plans; obviously we're not going to reveal any of them, but we've had options for each and every player,” Woods said of the Reed-Simpson pairing. “They have given their opinion of who they think is best suited for him, and it's more than just one option. We've had numerous options for each and every player, in case different scenarios happen as the week goes on. Those two are excited to play with one another.”

The last match, at 10:32 a.m. (6:32 p.m. Wednesday EST), is rookie Abraham Ancer from Mexico and South African Louis Oosthuizen versus Americans Dustin Johnson and rookie Gary Woodland. Oosthuizen is 3-3-0 in four-ball matches, and Johnson is 2-3-0.

Golf Channel will provide coverage from 5:30 p.m. Wednesday EST until midnight.

The Americans lead the biennial series, 10-1-1, including seven consecutive victories. The Internationals’ only victory was in 1998, here at Royal Melbourne.

Day 1 four-balls (all times Wednesday EST)
5:32 p.m. – Justin Thomas-Tiger Woods (U.S.) vs. Marc Leishman-Joaquin Niemann

5:47 p.m. – Patrick Cantlay-Xander Schauffele (U.S.) vs. Adam Hadwin-Sungjae Im

6:02 p.m. – Bryson DeChambeau-Tony Finau (U.S.) vs. Adam Scott-Byeong Hun An

6:17 p.m. – Patrick Reed-Webb Simpson (U.S.) vs. Hideki Matsuyama-C.T. Pan

6:32 p.m. – Dustin Johnson- Gary Woodland (U.S.) vs. Abraham Ancer-Louis Oosthuizen