COLUMBUS: Top-ranked Tiger Woods has found camaraderie on the US Presidents Cup squad, the 14-time major champion bonding over jokes from and about his teammates as he ponders playing partners.
“Whoever is playing well,” Woods said. “Whoever can carry me is great.”
The US PGA Tour Player of the Year, a five-time winner on tour this year, is known for his stoic focus on the course and sharing little of his life away from the television cameras.
But after his first practice round Tuesday at Muirfield Village ahead of Thursday’s start of the biennial matches against the Internationals, Woods was glad to share a few details.
“It is a great group of guys. We all take a good ribbing and it’s constant,” Woods said. “What goes on in the team room is a lot of fun.
“There’s a lot of needling going on. What people probably don’t understand is how close these teams are.”
The surprise chatterboxes of the US bunch are low-key Jason Dufner, the blank-stare sitting ‘Dufnering’ You Tube trend setter who won the PGA Championship in August, and Matt Kuchar.
“Duf, you wouldn’t expect the things that come out of his mouth,” Woods said. “Kuchar too. You expect the unexpected with those two. They are pretty funny guys.”
Asked if that was comical funny or weird funny, Woods smiled and said, “Both, and it could be in the same sentence.”
Woods is expected to be paired alongside Steve Stricker, Dufner and Kuchar in alternate-shot foursomes and four-ball matches over the first three days.
“I have played on these teams for so long now that I have had all kinds of partners,” Woods said. “It’s a matter of trying to gel that particular week. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don’t. The idea is go out there and play.
“It would be fun to win it in front of the home fans.”
Woods said alternate shot was more stressful, in part because you might go several holes without putting then be called upon in a tense situation, as well as having to try to create spin accuracy with an unfamiliar golf ball.
“You see a lot of guys practicing with the other ball to get a feel for it,” Woods said. “You have got to be prepared for sometimes three different golf balls.”
Woods, who finished second to Swede Henrik Stenson in the PGA playoffs, spent the past off week with his children and did not swing a club for five days, working on his fitness.
He comes to a course where he has won five times, most recently last year, but knows danger awaits if he attacks the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout too much.
“You can get overly aggressive here,” Woods said. “Jack’s courses are designed that way. You have to be very precise to get to the greens.
“They are softer and not as fast as we all thought. They are very receptive. If it stays like this there will be a lot of birdies.”