Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Jim Furyk and Tiger will go out together in the opening match on Friday. (Photo: AP)

Notebook: Great golf minds think alike, says Furyk

Though their games are dissimilar, says Jim Furyk, he and Tiger Woods share the same mentality. Plus, Stewart Cink says the rookies will be all right, Phil Mickelson brushes off questions about his form, and more.

September 21, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland (PA) -- Jim Furyk believes the key to his successful partnership with Tiger Woods is that though their games are dissimilar, they share the same mentality.

The players ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the world are teamed together for the first round of matches on Friday morning, and are expected to rekindle a profitable playing relationship that began in the Presidents Cup last year.

When asked what he thought Woods liked so much about playing with him, Furyk -- famed for his idiosyncratic backswing -- joked: "He probably likes watching my swing, I would think.

"I enjoy his company and his sense of humor," he added. "Our mentalities are the same and our thought processes are alike.

"Obviously, he can attack the golf course from different angles than I can because of his length and power and that also helps because, when we get into a four-ball type of competition, we're playing some holes differently," he said. "We have got some similarities and we have some differences and we get along pretty well."

TIGER WILL SHINE: America's stars are all backing Tiger Woods to shine at the K Club this week.

The world No. 1's record in the competition does not befit his standing as a 12-time major winner, having accrued only eight points from a possible 20 in his four appearances so far. His teammates are in no doubt about his importance to the side and to a man they have all highlighted the qualities he brings.

"He's got the strongest mind in golf. That is why he's great," said David Toms. "He seemed to be fine once he was on the golf course and doing his thing because that is always his escape, inside the ropes.

"I don't see how he has as much success as he does because every event he plays in -- not just the Ryder Cup but every event -- it seems everybody is there to see him," he added. "In practice we wanted to send him off the back nine and us off the front so we didn't have as many people out there."

Zach Johnson, one of four rookies Woods recently took out to dinner, dismissed the suggestion that the reigning British Open and PGA Champion has no time for team competition.

"Anybody, whether a golf fan, media whoever, who says he doesn't care about the Ryder Cup really could not be further from the truth," he said. "He's passionate about it. There's absolutely no question."

Fellow rookie Brett Wetterich was to the point in his assessment. "It's a pretty neat feeling to have the best player in the world on your side," he said.

"We all respect and admire what Tiger does on the golf course," J.J. Henry added. "We look up to him and the fact that every time he goes out and plays it seems like he does something else that's just unbelievable. He's an extraordinary talent but he's also a lot of fun to be around and I look on this as a great opportunity to learn as a player."

Chad Campbell, at his second Ryder Cup, said he admired Woods' ability to be in contention in almost every event he played -- highlighted by the world No. 1's recent run of five consecutive victories that included the British Open and PGA Championship.

"Tiger goes out there every week, and if he is not winning he's right there close to it," said Campbell. "That is probably the most impressive thing about him -- even when he doesn't win, he's playing his best and still puts himself in a position to win."

MICKELSON SHRUGS OFF WORRIES: Phil Mickelson has dismissed concerns about his form as the United States beings its quest to reclaim the Ryder Cup on Friday.

The left-hander has struggled since his disastrous conclusion to the U.S. Open, and he took last week off to attend his sister's wedding.

Usually the 36-year-old likes to play the week before a major, and the Ryder Cup certainly falls into that category. But spending last week with his family has led to questions about his preparations, which is a repeat of two years ago at Oakland Hills when he changed his make of clubs just before the event.

"The only thing that matters is the performance this week," he said. "The past weeks do not factor in, as long as I'm playing well and getting ready. I've had a couple of good practice sessions the last few weeks and I'm looking forward -- but I won't really know until Friday comes.

"I'm fresh and excited to play because, after playing for a long time, mentally I get stale and am not as sharp," he added. "That's why I took some time off and started practicing for the Ryder Cup."

Mickelson stressed there was a desire among the team to reward Captain Tom Lehman for the way he has managed them so far.

"We haven't played our best and come close for some captains and we are hoping to put forward our best performance for Tom because he deserves it," added the Masters champion. "We are trying to play well, not just for Tom but for ourselves and our fellow team members and the people we respect back in the United States."

ROOKIES WILL BE FINE: The USA has a quartet of rookies in its class of 2006, but Stewart Cink doesn't think that will hamper their Ryder Cup hopes.

J.J. Henry, Brett Wetterich, Zach Johnson and Vaughn Taylor will all experience one of golf's biggest events for the first time this weekend. But Cink, one of skipper Tom Lehman's wild card picks, has confidence in them after practicing with Taylor, Johnson and Henry on Tuesday.

"Players these days have been through a lot more at this stage in their careers than, say, 10 or 20 years ago," said Cink, who is playing in his third Ryder Cup. "They are used to being in the scrutinizing eye of the public, the media, so there won't be a whole lot of new stuff for them.

"They will be nervous. Everyone will be nervous because they want to win this really bad," he added. "These guys will handle it just fine -- so far they have all been a great addition to the team."

It's possible some of the rookies will have to watch Friday's play and hope to get into action on the middle day, something Jim Furyk admits could be a problem.

"It's difficult having to sit out both rounds on Friday and starting on Saturday, because you've anticipated the day and want to get out there and get started," he said. "But having to sit out both matches would make someone very anxious on Saturday."

Copyright 2006 PA Sport. All rights reserved.

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