Tiger, Steve diffuse tension
Tiger Woods extends a friendly hand before battle with former caddie Steve Williams (Getty Images)
Melbourne - Tiger Woods, in the same group as former caddie Steve Williams for the first time since their acrimonious split, has teed off for the Americans at the Presidents Cup.
Williams, fired by Woods in July, is now on the bag of Adam Scott, who is partnering KJ Choi for the Internationals against Woods and Steve Stricker in one of six foursomes (alternate shot) matches on Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Williams made a racial slur against Woods at a caddie’s party in Shanghai. Williams apologized, but their on-course meeting has been one of the most anticipated pairings of the Presidents Cup.
Woods and Williams shook hands on the first tee and Woods later hit his tee shot straight down the fairway at Royal Melbourne.
The Internationals took the early lead in three matches and the Americans in two, while Woods' match was all square after the first.
The biggest early swing came in the match involving Americans Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who were 2 down after three but won three holes in a row to take a 1-up lead over Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa after seven holes in the opening match of the day.
Watson and Simpson are Presidents Cup rookies, while Els once shot a 60 on the composite course at Royal Melbourne to win the Heineken Classic in 2004.
Jason Day sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the opening hole to help give him and fellow Australian Aaron Baddeley an early 1-up lead over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar after four holes. Another Australian, Geoff Ogilvy, made a 30-foot birdie putt to help give he and partner Charl Schwartzel to a 2-up lead after six holes over Bill Haas and Nick Watney of the United States.
Hunter Mahan made a short birdie putt on the first to give him and David Toms the lead over the Internationals' K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang of South Korea. Retief Goosen and Robert Allenby of the Internationals took a 1-up lead over Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk after three holes.
The Americans are looking to win the Presidents Cup for the fourth straight time. Royal Melbourne was the site of the International team's only win in 1998.
Officials said Thursday that Friday's fourball competition would be moved up to mid-morning tee times due to the threat of inclement weather in the afternoon. Five foursomes and five fourball matches are scheduled Saturday, with 12 singles matches Sunday.