ORLANDO, Fla. – Wake up, America.
Boy, are we missing the overnight news cycle.
While many in the States were sleeping, the pairings for the first day of play at the Presidents Cup were issued, and event organizers are hardly taking the high road when it comes to controversial matchmaking, or gleaning every ounce of juice they might generate.
Not quite two weeks after caddie Steve Williams used a racial term to describe part of former boss Tiger Woods’ anatomy, Woods and Williams’ new boss, Adam Scott, were placed in the final opening-day foursome off the tee as matches begin Thursday in Australia.
That’s hardly all that happened overnight, either, but foisted things first.
After organizers at last week’s Aussie Open declined to pair Scott and Woods, the two captains at the PrezCup wasted no time in putting the pair together, sending them out last on the first day of matches. Reaction was swift.
*The PGA Tour, which runs the event, took no disciplinary action against Williams for uttering the perceived racial slur, but isn’t above using any tension with Woods to hype the event? Nice. Hypocrisy take a 1-up lead.
*Secondly, Woods was a highly controversial selection to the U.S. team to begin with – two-time winner Keegan Bradley, the only Yank to win a major this year, was passed over -- and the tour is clearly milking Woods for all he’s worth.
*If you had forgotten that this is an exhibition, consider yourself reminded. The Aussie Open didn’t pair Woods and Scott because it would have been disruptive to the tournament proper.
*But the Presidents Cup is a soap opera, not a real tournament, and not above pandering to draw eyeballs in a time zone 16 hours away from the U.S. eastern time zone. In fact, this thing looks more like pro wrestling that professional golf. Maybe the Rock ought to be tapped as a future assistant captain, not Michael Jordan.
*Despite some misdirection from U.S. captain Fred Couples --or maybe he was just a mite confused, as usual -- Woods was indeed paired with Steve Stricker in the opening matches. The duo has been hugely successful in 2009 and 2010 as dance partners and Woods was 5-0 at the Presidents Cup two years ago in San Francisco. Yeah, we're sure you're as shocked as we are.
At 2 a.m. ET, the tour announced that the 2015 Presidents Cup would be staged at an undetermined in golf-crazed South Korea, which represents a savvy move. The Ryder Cup, the granddaddy of all international matches, isn’t held outside the U.K. or the United States, and the decision to stage the PrezCup in Asia for the first time is shrewd for a variety of reasons.
The European Tour has a better grip on Asian markets already, co-sanctioning several events with other tours, and this will insinuate the PGA Tour into more homes and markets. Not to mention that this year’s International team at Royal Melbourne has three Koreans on the roster.
In an unrelated note, yet one that will generate plenty of chatter going forward, it was announced Wednesday that Woods will skip playing the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines in January in order to play for pay at the European Tour event the same week in Abu Dhabi.
Woods has won seven tournaments at Torrey and only once has finished outside the top 10 – last year. The blowback will be at least two-fold: Woods will get ripped for blowing off his most successful venue for a payday, and speculation will heighten about where he will play on the West Coast instead, be it at Pebble Beach, Riviera or wherever.
Woods frequently played the Dubai event in the EuroTour's Desert Swing, but his contract expired this year, and he was fined for spitting on a green in the final round. Interestingly, the Abu Dhabi event is run by IMG, Woods' former managament agency.
Though he hasn't won anywhere in over two years, Woods reportedly commands a $2 million appearance fee, the top figure in the game.
Based on what just happened at the Presidents Cup, what are the odds that Woods will be "drawn" with Rory McIlroy over the first two days?
Warm up those eyebrows, people, because there's plenty of wattage in the sarcasm meter these days.
Here are the opening pairings for tonight's foursomes (alternate shot) matches:
BUBBA WATSON / WEBB SIMPSON
ERNIE ELS / RYO ISHIKAWA
BILL HAAS / NICK WATNEY
GEOFF OGILVY / CHARL SCHWARTZEL
DUSTIN JOHNSON / MATT KUCHAR
AARON BADDELEY / JASON DAY
PHIL MICKELSON / JIM FURYK
RETIEF GOOSEN / ROBERT ALLENBY
HUNTER MAHAN / DAVID TOMS
KYUNG-TAE KIM / Y.E. YANG
TIGER WOODS / STEVE STRICKER
ADAM SCOTT / K.J. CHOI