Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will almost certainly not be seen playing together in the Ryder Cup this September, but they will definitely be seen practising together.
Among captain Tom Lehman’s ideas for the K Club near Dublin and America’s attempt to avoid an unprecedented third successive defeat is for his team to display a united front.
Four years ago at The Belfry, Woods was given permission to go out on the course at daybreak to work on his game as he does for a major championship. Many fans felt hard done by as they were not even allowed in until he was half way round.
Two years ago in Detroit, Mickelson took that to another level when he switched his final practice session to another course entirely. Questions were naturally asked and when he and Woods lost their two games together on the opening day, Hal Sutton’s gamble had exploded in his face.
On the eve of the Nissan Open in Los Angeles, where Woods was today beginning his search for a third straight victory this season, Lehman said: “We’ll practise as a team without question. No wiggle room.
“We will probably play as a 12-some one day – I’m not kidding about that. We’ll just all tee it up on the first tee together and away we go and just have some fun playing alternate shots.
“The golf fans deserve to see our guys, so whether we tee off a little bit early or a bit later we will play it together.
“We want to make sure that the folks that are spending all of that money to buy tickets, making an effort to get there, do get to see the team play and practise.”
Lehman will be delighted, of course, to see Woods go on winning all season long. He knows how important the world number one is to America’s chances.
Trying to stop Woods this week, though, is Ernie Els, making his first appearance in the States since the US Open last June.
The South African was out of action for four months following knee surgery last summer – he injured himself in a water sports accident – but was involved in a play-off with Woods in Dubai only two weeks ago and now returns to a course where he came out top in another duel between the two in 1999.