After years of searching and so many failed pairings, the ideal partner for Tiger Woods has finally been found. Ironically, it was the world’s top-ranked player himself who discovered the golfer hiding in plain sight.
Six-time PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar and Woods have combined to form the most lethal duo through the first several days of the 10th Presidents Cup, going undefeated in their first three matches at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Their confident, competitive natures, tempered with an appropriate dose of playfulness, have kept them focused but loose. At the same time, Woods’ power and aggressiveness has been the perfect complement to Kuchar’s consistency, accuracy and solid short game. The duo have long been friends and play practice rounds together often.
It’s a wildly successful pairing Fred Couples would love to take the credit for. But the reality is he’s just the beneficiary of a hunch Woods had earlier in the week when he asked the U.S. captain to put them together at the beginning of the international competition.
Couples smartly agreed, and as a result, Tiger and Kuchar are the unquestioned stars of this Presidents Cup heading into Sunday.
The duo has accounted for three of the Americans' 11.5 points while providing a significant lift to a team that has played inspired golf on Jack Nicklaus’ course despite multiple weather delays and solid play from the Internationals.
In their three victories, which was highlighted by a 1-up win over Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama in Saturday’s four-ball match, Woods and Kuchar were pushed past the 16th hole only once. That’s not just good, that’s crazy good.
It’s also a pleasant development for Tiger, who not only has struggled to find a consistent partner in team match play competition, but also came into this event fighting his game and confidence.
A strong dose of the positive and competitive Kuchar, who is the 19th golfer to partner with Tiger, is exactly what the doctor ordered to cure the world’s No. 1 golfer of both those ailments.
In fact, Woods has been relaxed and upbeat throughout the first three-and-a-half sessions of the pressure-packed Cup, and his playing partner deserves a solid dose of the credit.
Likewise, Kuchar has clearly benefited from playing alongside Woods. His focus and energy has been there from the start, and he’s come up large in the big moments. It’s a stark contrast to the popular American’s 1-3-1 performance in his first Presidents Cup two years ago.
In fact, from the very start Woods and Kuchar played as if they've partnered together for years. In their first-ever pairing together on Thursday, the duo dusted Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman 5 and 4.
They then took out Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel 4 and 2 in the first foursomes session that started on Friday and concluded early Saturday morning.
Their come-from-behind triumph over Scott and Matsuyama was the anchor victory to a dominant third session in which the Americans turned a one-point lead into a four-point margin heading into the final foursomes session that will be completed on Sunday.
Along the way they've been the perfect “ham and egg” partnership, lifting each other with great shots and crucial putts at just the right moments.
Early in their third match, Tiger kept the team close with his partner struggling around the greens. In the end, however, it was Kuchar who made the big putts when it mattered most and closed out the Internationals with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
The end result is a wildly successful partnership that in hindsight seems like a natural. Both Woods and Kuchar have enjoyed great success at Muirfield, winning the 2012 and 2013 Memorial Tournaments, respectively. They've also claimed the past two Players Championships and are among the most determined golfers on the PGA Tour.
It’s been obvious from the start with their Fresh Prince of Bel-Air high fives, fist pumps and broad smiles that they've thoroughly enjoyed playing alongside one another, and that’s something that hasn't always been the case in previous Tiger pairings.
Yes, Woods enjoyed success playing with good-friend Steve Stricker, but that pairing seemed to fizzle at last year’s Ryder Cup when they went 0-3. Attempts to put him together with other top players such as Phil Mickelson were absolute failures.
Yet with Kuchar, Woods has found a golfer who matches his intensity, complements his aggressive style with consistency and accuracy, and isn't overwhelmed by playing alongside him in pressure moments.
Give Woods and Kuchar credit for seeing the potential and then making it a reality. Give some to Couples as well for having the good sense to let it happen.
For their part, however, the Internationals could have done without either ever happening.