Presidents Cup Set To Begin

Wednesday, October 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GAINESVILLE, Va. (AP) — This is one tournament Tiger Woods can't win by himself.

No matter how good Woods is this week — and everyone expects him to be very good — he needs his supporting cast to come through if the United States is to win back the Presidents Cup from the International team.

The U.S. team needs 16 1/2 points beginning Thursday to regain the cup lost two years ago in Australia, and even Woods at his very best can deliver only five of those coveted points.

Maybe that's why the talk around the Robert Trent Jones course this week actually centered on how the Americans relate to each other as a team rather than how well Woods or any other team member is playing.

``We're all excited about being here, being with each other and teaming up,'' Woods said. ``I know we're all pretty fired up.''

Woods was particularly excited about being paired with former Stanford teammate Notah Begay in the alternate shot play that opens the competition. Woods and Begay play Vijay Singh and Ernie Els in one of five opening day matches.

Woods had lobbied U.S. captain Ken Venturi to be paired with his friend, and Venturi was more than accommodating to the most dominant player in the world.

``They are very compatible. Notah spent the weekend down with Tiger, it's just a great friendship,'' Venturi said. ``And it's just sitting there for the waiting.''

Though Woods is in the midst of one of the most dominating years ever and was a fine match play player as an amateur, don't automatically put his points on the board.

Woods went 2-3 the last time the Presidents Cup was played in Australia two years ago, and has a 3-6-1 record on two Ryder Cup teams.

With Sunday's singles play his only chance to pick up an individual point, Woods will have to play well with Begay and whoever else he is put with in the foursomes and four-ball matches that account for 20 of the 32 points at stake.

``Team chemistry is everything, almost,'' Tom Lehman said. ``You're looking for a situation where two plus two equals five. That's what good teams have done. They've kind of become better than they really are, because of the way they pull together.''

Lehman knows from experience, having played on two Presidents Cup and three Ryder Cup teams, including the team that came from behind in the Sunday singles matches last year to win back the Ryder Cup in a display of golf overshadowed by the controversy over how it was celebrated.

This is no Ryder Cup, though, and the feelings don't run as deep. Many of those on the International team, in fact, live near American players in Florida and most are friends.

``It's hard to have much animosity toward your friends, just because you're playing against them in an international competition one week out of the year,'' Phil Mickelson said.

The International team returns eight players from the squad that trounced the Americans 20 1/2 -11 1/2 in Melbourne to win the cup for the first time since its inception in 1994. Among the notables are Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Nick Price and Vijay Singh.

The team is deep enough that captain Peter Thomson, a five-time British Open winner, didn't pick Japan's Shigeki Maruyama to play on Thursday, despite the fact Maruyama went 5-0 in Australia.

Thomson said his team is better than the European Ryder Cup squad.

``I think this International team could beat Europe — comfortably,'' Thomson said.

Many of the American players who lost in Australia have blamed having to play in December halfway around the world for the defeat. Others simply acknowledge that the International players simply played better.

Furyk, who teamed with Hal Sutton against Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby in an opening match, was upset Wednesday because he felt no one was giving the Americans credit for acting more like a team.

Furyk had figured to be nothing more than a role player on a team loaded with stars. Instead, he carved out a new role — defender of the American team's desire.

``I'm tired about hearing about how, as Americans, we don't pull together and we're not a team and we don't care,'' Furyk said. ``I know you can't be in the locker room, you can't hear the things we say. I'm pretty fed up with it. I'm tired of hearing it.''

He jumped in at the end of a question asked to Woods to make sure his opinion was known.

``I'm looking forward to a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup where someone writes a story about how great a team we are, and how much we pull together and about how excited we are to go out there and try to beat the other team's rear end,'' Furyk said.

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