MANASSAS, Va. -- They are two of the top five golfers in the world. You'd think they might be able to forge a partnership that would be devastating in the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.
But that proved to be false thinking last year when Hal Sutton threw Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods out against the Europeans in an ill-fated strategy that ended in two American defeats, setting the tone for a European win.
It's a failure that still puzzles Mickelson.
"I really thought we were going to play well together," Mickelson said yesterday, on the eve of the sixth Presidents Cup matches against an International team that does not include Europe.
"I had been wanting to play with him for years and I think Tiger felt the same way. It was disappointing that it didn't work out. I don't think another captain will go out on a limb like that again given the scrutiny that Captain Sutton went through after that."
So this morning, Mickelson will be paired with Chris DiMarco and Woods will have Fred Couples alongside, but none of these partnerships come with any guarantees.
The Presidents Cup begins with six alternate-shot matches this afternoon at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, 50 kilometres southwest of Washington, D.C., with no fewer than three United States presidents expected to be in attendance.
George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the current president, have indicated they'll be on hand for the opening ceremony.
Just past 1 p.m., Woods and Couples will tee off against Adam Scott and Retief Goosen in the first of 22 team matches to be played over the next three days. The tournament comes to a climax on Sunday afternoon with 12 singles matches.
The most recent Presidents Cup, held in South Africa two years ago, ended in a draw, even though Woods and Ernie Els went through three agonizing playoff holes before darkness ended the proceedings.
Canadian Mike Weir drew South African rookie Trevor Immelman in the final pairing of the day against the veteran combo of David Toms and Stewart Cink.
"It was a strategy to put the rookies with players who have some experience in these events and I feel comfortable with Trevor," said Weir, who is upbeat about his game even though recent results are not positive.
International captain Gary Player has been keeping an eye on Weir the past few days.
"I watched his swing carefully and I have to say he's swinging really well," Player said of Weir.
Tomorrow afternoon, six better-ball matches are scheduled and the captains will announce their pairings this evening. On Saturday, five more foursome matches will be played in the morning and five better-ball matches in the afternoon.