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Tiger Woods finds ideal match play partner

Tiger Woods, who found a wife faster than he could settle on a matchplay partner, appears to have finally found his golfing soul mate after shining with Jim Furyk at last week's Presidents Cup.

Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, sparked a level of enthusiasm very rarely seen in Woods during team competition as the pair won twice and halved once in three matches together against the Internationals at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

The chemistry between them was evident right from the start when they were paired for the first time in the opening fourballs on Friday.

Woods, who has generally maintained a respectful distance from his playing partners, was quick to offer Furyk help and they often huddled together like kids studying for an exam as they read each other's putts on the greens.

Before last week, however, Woods had produced mixed results in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competition, trying 14 different partners without finding that elusive perfect match.

Despite being the world's top golfer and a fan of the matchplay format, his team report card would have made gloomy reading: "Does not play well with others".

In Presidents Cup action, his win-loss record in team matches was 5-7 before last week. In the Ryder Cup, it is 4-7.

Although he has performed well in Presidents Cups singles encounters with a 3-0 record before last week's showdown, his fourball form before partnering Furyk was an abysmal 0-6.

At last year's Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Hal Sutton adopted a "big-gun strategy" of pairing Woods with Phil Mickelson on the first day but the two moped around Oakland Hills as if they were on a blind date gone wrong. They lost both matches together.

In the Presidents Cup, Woods has played with Fred Couples, Justin Leonard, John Huston, his long-standing friend Notah Begay III and Charles Howell III.

The laidback and smooth-swinging Couples, who partnered Woods on his Presidents Cup debut in Australia in 1998, was reunited with the world number one for the opening foursomes last week.

However, the duo succumbed to a predictable and all-too familiar result for Woods -- a 4 and 3 loss to Australia's Adam Scott and South Africa's Retief Goosen.

The game's best player since Jack Nicklaus seemed to be on course for yet another unrewarding Presidents Cup, but all that changed when the accurate but medium-hitting Furyk became his next partner.

Never comfortable in the role of cheerleader, Woods delivered several of his trademark fist pumps as Furyk's shot-making helped them seal a 3 and 2 win against Australia's Stuart Appleby and Mark Hensby in their first outing.

It was the first fourball point won by Woods in four Presidents Cups.

The duo then halved their foursomes match with world number two Vijay Singh of Fiji and Australian Stuart Appleby before beating the same opponents two up in the closing fourballs.

"Even though we have a different style of game, our personalities are very similar, in how we approach the game of golf and how we compete," Woods said of his successful relationship with Furyk.

"So, from that standpoint, it's kind of a no-brainer. We've had a bunch of fun this week, and I'm actually playing halfway decent too, which helps.

"Our attitudes are very similar and we read putts almost identical. It's been very comforting for me to go out there and play with Jim."

Given that the pair made their Ryder Cup debuts in 1997, it seems odd it has taken so long for them to be brought together as a team combination.

"Most of the time, guys are paired up with players that have similar games, and obviously Jim and I play golf differently," said Woods.

"I think it might just be the difference in length and off the tees and how we play. That sometimes can be something that deters captains from putting guys together.

"But I think the most important thing is the way we approach the game. The way we compete, I think we're very similar in that regard. The way we approach the game, we read putts very similar.

"We wanted to be paired together and (team captain) Jack (Nicklaus) was nice enough to put us out there together."

Injuries permitting, bank on Woods and Furyk being put out together for the U.S. against Europe in next year's Ryder Cup at the K Club in County Kildare, Ireland.


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