- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Tiger Woods on the tee wearing an American flag instead of a swoosh. Steve Williams right there with him, standing guard over a bag. It might look like any of the previous 44 times they were together in a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.

Far from it.

The feature match in the opening session Thursday at Royal Melbourne took on qualities of a sideshow when captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman allowed Woods to be placed opposite his jilted caddie in the Presidents Cup.

“I think it’s great for the tournament,” Norman said. “It needed to be done.”

The most compelling matches of any cup competition usually don’t happen until Sunday singles. And they’re usually about two players with clubs in their hands, not a guy who is carrying the bag.

On paper, the sixth and final foursomes match will be Woods and Steve Stricker, a tandem that went undefeated two years ago, against K.J. Choi and Adam Scott, the popular Australian who hired Williams after he was fired by Woods this summer.

The firing alone is not enough to make a Woods-Williams reunion the least bit interesting. Caddies get fired all the time, even those who have been at the side of a player who won 72 times and 13 majors in their 12 years together.

It’s the soap opera that led to so much speculation until the pairings were announced Wednesday.

They disputed publicly whether the firing was done over the phone or face-to-face. Williams gave one of more incredible TV interviews after Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational, calling it “the best win of my life.”

And then came the Shanghai surprise. Williams was getting roasted at a caddies award dinner two weeks ago when he was asked about his TV interview at Firestone. “My aim was to shove it up that black a––.”

Amid accusations of racism, Williams apologized. Scott said that was enough for him not to discipline his caddie, and so did golf executives. Woods accepted the apology last week, and bailed out his old caddie by saying Williams was not a racist. He said they ran into each other in the gym in Sydney and shook hands.

But it remained such a topic that both captains felt it was best to get it out of the way.

Couples and Norman said the pairing was not planned, though that rang hollow. In the Presidents Cup, captains take turns filling out the lineup for every match, so both captains had ample opportunity to make sure Woods was not in the same match as Scott.

The last chance fell to Couples.

Norman put K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang in the fifth match. Couples inserted Hunter Mahan and David Toms. That left only one team available for the sixth match, and U.S. assistant captain Jay Haas broke up the room when he said, “Who’s left?”

Story Continues →