Golf Tidbits: Woods needs a new partner

Tiger Woods has missed just one team event since he turned pro, the 2008 Ryder Cup. He was on the shelf at the time recovering from a broken leg.

He teamed with Steve Stricker at the Ryder Cup for three sessions last weekend and didn't fare too well. The duo went 6-1 in their first seven Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup matches. Since then, a big fat 0-4.

It stuns me to agree with Colin Montgomerie, but he wrote a column for The Telegraph on Wednesday in which he states that it is time for Woods to take on a new, younger partner.

He's absolutely right.

In his 15 national appearances, Woods has had 18 partners. It didn't stun me, but it may shock you to find out that just two of those 18 were younger than Woods. Of Woods' 18 partners, 11 have been major champions.

Charles Howell III and Dustin Johnson were Woods' two younger partners.

Woods, for the bulk of his career, has paired with guys who have been his close friends - see O'Meara, Mark; Begay III, Notah; Couples, Fred - to name a few.

Howell has been one of Woods' pals for many years now, and Johnson is inching his way into Tiger's tight group of pals. So why didn't U.S. captain Davis Love III pair Johnson and Woods instead of Woods and Stricker?

Johnson went 2-0 with Matt Kuchar in their two four-ball matches. If that duo continues to make national teams, keep them together.

That leaves Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker and Bubba Watson as possible partners from this year's team.

Bradley was a dynamo with Mickelson, so they'll stay together. Of the other five, Watson seems closest to Woods as they are frequent practice round partners.

Of course, Watson and Simpson went 2-1 last week at Medinah, so maybe Woods' future partner isn't on this list. One such player, Sean O'Hair, has made just one national team, the 2009 Presidents Cup.

That was the year Woods and Stricker rolled to a 4-0 record.

Leading up to the Ryder Cup, Woods talked about becoming more of a leader. He showed himself on the first tee for the first few singles matches on Sunday before beginning his preparation for his match.

Other than that, it was tough see any of Woods' leadership unless you were in the team room.

Woods' words leading up to last weekend's event seem hollow now, and Love may have foreshadowed this.

On the day that Love named his assistant captains, Love said he had talked to the veteran guys who made the team on points and asked for some advice, but when he listed the guys he talked to, Woods was not one of the them.

Woods obviously likes to play with other major champions, and his list of former partners also includes four former team captains - Couples (a three-time Presidents Cup captain), Love, Paul Azinger and Tom Lehman, who all led the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

He also has paired with guys who are in line for one of the two captaincies - Mickelson, Furyk and Toms to name a few.

Tiger's first chance to break in another partner will come next fell at Muirfield Village Golf Club, site of the 2013 Presidents Cup. It might not matter who Woods plays with that week, as he has won The Memorial four times on that course.

There are plenty of up-and-comers who could be Woods' next Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup partner. One of them has to step up and grab that role.

And the same time, Woods has to step up and truly show his desire to lead one of those youngsters.


In November's issue of Golf Digest, Ernie Els admits that he has cut back on his partying ways.

He tells Tom Callahan that people in South Africa, "See me as this big drinker, for whom everything was automatic, who just showed up from South Africa and was given all the money and fame without working for it. It doesn't happen like that. You have to practice. You have to train. You have to work yourself almost sick. It's a hard life - a great life, but hard. Nothing is given to you."

Lost in the hoopla around his come-from-behind win at the British Open this year was that Els had been completely sober for a couple months at that point.

Els admits in the article that his father stopped drinking 56 days after Ernie was born. Now, Els is doing the same for his family.

Rather than go to the club, play golf and drink some beers with his buddies, Els would much sooner just practice on his own and play with his kids.

Kudos to Els for turning his ways around. It's never the easiest thing to do.


* The European Tour's annual pro-am is this weekend. Some of the bigger names you'll see are Michael Phelps, Bill Murray and Oscar Pistorius, the double- amputee runner from South Africa.

* There is still plenty of golf the next four weeks. Both the PGA and tours are playing each week and the biggest battle for players on both tours will be trying to get inside the number. On the PGA, that means getting inside the top 125 to keep a tour card for next year. For the Tour, that means getting inside the top 25, which earns players their PGA Tour card for 2013.