With the 2013 Presidents Cup set to kick off from Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio on Thursday, there was plenty of anticipation on Wednesday regarding potential pairings. Both the American and International teams came forth with their Day 1 duos, and there is no question that all of them are of great interest for one reason or another.
Golfers are so used to competing against each other that it's fun to see them work together even if it's only for a few days. There are plenty of factors that can contribute to a successful pairing, including camaraderie, similar or contrasting playing styles and varying degrees of experience. Finding the right combination is like a science experiment, and it's worth monitoring which work out and which don't.
Here is a closer look at the three most-intriguing pairings to keep an eye on throughout the day on Thursday.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley
American golf fans entered the Presidents Cup in hopes that captain Fred Couples would reprise the popular Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley pairing, and he has done precisely that. Mickelson and Bradley don't seem like they should necessarily be a great pairing on the surface, but they were dominant together in last year's Ryder Cup. According to ESPN Stats & Info, they went 3-0-0 against the Europeans in 2012, which was nearly enough to lead the Americans to victory.
Mickelson is 16 years older than Bradley, but they just seemed to click. It's almost as though they have a big-brother-little-brother or father-son dynamic. Bradley appeared visually nervous at last year's Ryder Cup, but Mickelson pressed all the right buttons and helped him settle in. They constantly supported each other throughout their rounds, and they couldn't be stopped.
If they gel as well as they did last year, it will be very difficult for the International team to succeed. Mickelson and Bradley certainly don't have an easy Day 1 match on their hands as they will take on the pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, but look for them to provide Team USA with enough energy to propel them to an early advantage.
Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel
The aforementioned pairing of Oosthuizen and Schwartzel is easily the International team's best overall duo. Captain Nick Price seemed to make a concerted effort to spread his talent around as Adam Scott and Jason Day were kept away from each other. While Price avoided the Aussie connection, he didn't hesitate to put good friends and South African countrymen Oosthuizen and Schwartzel together.
Oosthuizen won the Open Championship in 2010 and Charl Schwartzel followed that up with a Masters victory in 2011, so they certainly now how to get the job done in pressure situations. There may not be as much pressure on Day 1 as there will be on Day 4, but Price has heaped big expectations on them by pitting them against Mickelson and Bradley. While the Americans will be favored, PGATour.com's Amanda Balionis believes it will be an excellent matchup.
Although this one battle won't decide the entire competition, beating Mickelson and Bradley would provide a huge boost to the International team. That pairing is expected to dominate just like it did at the Ryder Cup, so faltering early would be a bit disconcerting. Oosthuizen and Schwartzel have a golden opportunity to play the role of spoiler.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar
Fans were going to be interested no matter who Couples decided to pair Tiger Woods with, but Couples may have hit paydirt by putting Tiger and Matt Kuchar together. Woods struggled mightily alongside Steve Stricker at the Ryder Cup, so it was definitely a good idea to split them up. Woods and Kuchar have played together for a very long time and seem to have a certain comfort level as evidenced by this retro photo courtesy of Golf.com.
Woods and Kuchar may be grayer than they were in 1998, but they're also much more experienced and savvy players. Despite Woods' continued failures to capture another major, he had a fantastic 2013 season. Tiger has a penchant for inconsistent play, though, as it's never certain how he'll perform on any given day. Kuchar is a model of consistency, however, so he should be able to pick up Woods if need be.
Although there is reason to believe that Woods and Kuchar will be big winners for the Americans in this event, they have a tricky Day 1 matchup against Marc Leishman and two-time major winner Angel Cabrera. Woods hasn't always been great in these types of competitions, but look for Kuchar to help him find his comfort zone.
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