Wednesday, September 26, 2007

US can still outplay formidable International side to keep Cup, says Woods

MONTREAL: Tiger Woods sees an impressive International squad poised for the Presidents Cup but likes the chance his US team can retain the trophy with a fun but focused atmosphere inspired by captain Jack Nicklaus.

Both teams arrived on Monday in Canada ahead of the seventh edition of the match-play event between American and non-European sides at Royal Montreal Golf Club, with the US squad owning a 4-1-1 edge in the rivalry.

South Africa's Ernie Els, Australian Adam Scott and South Korean K.J. Choi lead an Internationals lineup with nine of the top 18 players in the world.

“If you look on the international side, I think that everyone will be the first to admit that's probably the best lineup there is, including US or European Ryder Cup teams,” Woods said in a conference call on Monday.

“To be on the international team, you have to basically be in the top 20 in the world to make the squad. That's pretty formidable.”

As part of golf's global growth, the next Presidents Cups will be staged in new venues – San Francisco in 2009 and Australia in 2011, returning to the only nation where the Internationals won by 20 1/2-11 1/2 in 1998.

Woods, whose 61 PGA titles include 13 majors, cited the influence of Nicklaus, the man whose record 18 majors Woods wants to break, in keeping the US focused but also enjoying the event and each other.

“Jack has traditionally just let us play. He gets out of the way. He says go prepare how you normally prepare for an event,” Woods said.

In four Presidents Cups, Woods is 10-9 with one halved, 3-1 in singles and 5-2 with a half in foursomes but just 2-6 in four-ball.

Among this year's players with more than one prior Cup start, only Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink also have winning overall marks. And they, like Woods, have losing overall marks in the Ryder Cup against Europe's finest.

But while Europe has dominated the Americans, the US best have denied their global foes in the Presidents Cup. Woods has made a difference, including a night-halted playoff duel with Els that led to a 2003 draw at South Africa.

“Whoever plays Tiger Woods is in for a very difficult match,” Internationals captain Gary Player said. “But Retief Goosen played him and beat him. Nick O'Hern has played him twice and beaten him on both occasions.” – AFP