Woods v Scott in Melbourne
Adam Scott and Tiger Woods at the 2011 Presidents Cup opening ceremony (Getty Images)
Melbourne - Presidents Cup team captains Greg Norman and Fred Couples have ensured Thursday's opening foursomes matches will have additional spice by pairing Tiger Woods against Australia's Adam Scott and the American's former caddy Steve Williams.
Williams, who now carries Scott's bag after Woods fired him in July ending a partnership that had started in 1999, sparked a global controversy in the leadup to the biennial tournament by making a racist remark about Woods in China earlier this month.
New Zealander Williams later apologised online and to Woods in person and the American said he wanted to move on.
Scott, who rejected calls to sack his caddy and denied Williams was a racist, had said he would be prepared to take on Woods regardless of any tension in the match-up.
Capping off days of speculation, US captain Couples called Hunter Mahan and David Toms for the second-last match against Kim Kyung-Tae and YE Yang, leaving Scott and South Korean team mate KJ Choi to play against Woods and Stricker.
Before calling out the second-last name, Couples hesitated before mistakenly calling out Phil Mickelson's surname for the penultimate pairing before correcting himself.
Both he and Internationals captain Norman denied the match-up was premeditated but their comments appeared to contradict the claim.
"Like Greg said, and we were right here, we were writing down cards and it's just the way it felt, and I think it would be worse if we hid this deal," he told reporters at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on Wednesday.
Norman said had not spoken with Couples and his assistants about it but had consulted Scott and Choi.
"I think it's great for the tournament. It needed to be done. It played out the way it played out," he told reporters.
"I just think that in the situation and the best spirit of the competition for the tournament there's obviously a lot of speculation and intensity from the people in this room here that it could take place.
"We talked about it as the three of us and say, 'okay, if we had to diffuse anything and just get this thing over and done with, wouldn't you rather have it sooner than later?'
"Because I personally wouldn't have wanted to be sitting down at the singles and everybody is playing a really tight match and it comes down to the last group or the second to last group, and all of this pressure is coming on because it's the first time the two met."
As holders, the US team were entitled to the first pick but Couples deferred it to the hosts and Norman duly selected South African triple major champion Ernie Els to partner with Japan's Ryo Ishikawa.
They will face Bubba Watson and Nick Watney in the first match-up and Norman said their pairing was intended to allow Els to give the 20-year-old a helping hand around the Royal Melbourne course.
Ishikawa arrived late on Tuesday, well after his team-mates and has little time to get to know the challenging lay-out.
"Well, I think that had a lot to do with it," said Norman. "We knew Ryo got in late and only had one practice round. They are out there playing now.
"Ernie shot 60 around this golf course so he knows how to play Royal Melbourne," he added of the South African, the only player on the team to have tasted victory in the Cup back in 1998.
Norman picked a trio of Australians in the following three pairings, in part, he said to get the local crowd firing early.
Local Geoff Ogilvy and South Africa's US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel face captain's pick Bill Haas and Nick Watney before Australia's Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day take on Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Four-times major champion Mickelson forms a seasoned pairing with Jim Furyk in a veterans' match-up against South African double U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and Australia's Robert Allenby in the fourth match-up.
"You put an Aussie in one group, (the fans) are going to be going, 'Oi, Oi, Oi!' so I don't have a problem with that," Norman said with a grin.
The United States are bidding to win their fourth successive Presidents Cup, though Royal Melbourne is the venue of their sole loss in the tournament in 1998
Foursome pairings for Day 1 of the President's Cup (International names first, all times CAT):
Match 1, 4:05am:
Ernie Els (South Africa) and Ryo
Ishikawa (Japan) v Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson
Match 2, 4:17am:
(Australia) and Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) v Bill Haas and Nick Watney
Match 3, 4:29am:
Aaron Baddeley (Australia) and Jason Day (Australia) v Dustin Johnson and Matt
Match 4, 04:41am :
Retief Goosen (South Africa) and Robert Allenby (Australia) v Phil
Mickelson and Jim Furyk
Match 5, 04:53am:
Kim Kyung-tae (South Korea) and Y.E. Yang (South
Korea) v Hunter Mahan and David Toms
Match 6, 05:05am :
Adam Scott (Australia) and K.J. Choi
(South Korea) v Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker