Top-ranked Tiger Woods had a tougher time with a squirrel and a handslap routine swiped from a 1990s television show than anything Presidents Cup rivals offered in Thursday’s four-ball matches.
US PGA Player of the Year Woods, a 14-time major champion, and Matt Kuchar, this year’s WGC Match Play winner, routed Argentina’s Angel Cabrera and Australian Marc Leishman 5 and 4 on day one at the biennial team golf showdown at Muirfield Village.
The day’s most comical moment came at the expense of Woods when he was introduced by his girlfriend, US ski star Lindsey Vonn, to “Sammy”, a squirrel who met US assistant captain Davis Love at the second hole and rode around the course with him on a cart as a lucky charm.
“I had to keep it as long as we were winning holes,” Love said.
After Woods was done and watching his teammates on the 18th green, Vonn playfully swiped the squirrel from Love and placed him on Woods’ right shoulder.
As Woods tried to shake the small animal off him and made an uncomfortable facial expression, teammates roared with laughter at the superstar’s plight and new furry friend.
“I don’t know much about a live squirrel,” US captain Fred Couples said. “But it was pretty funny.”
Even Woods was won over by the squirrel in the end.
“Tiger actually liked him,” Love said. “And Lindsey loves him.”
Among those who enjoyed Woods and his surprise visitor was Kuchar, the reigning champion of the Memorial, the US PGA event played at Muirfield.
Kuchar came up with a unique celebration for whenever he or Woods would make a key putt. They share a high five handslap and pull their hands back quickly to mimic a gesture used by actor Will Smith on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“I’m not a huge fan of bumping knuckles,” Kuchar said. “I thought there was something a little extra, something fun to do. Baseball high fives look like a lot of fun but look a little too complicated, so we went old school. We had a really good time doing it.”
In the US TV show, which aired from 1990-1996, Smith often used the move with supporting character Carlton Banks, played by Alfonso Ribeiro.
Only in Kuchar’s world, he’s the one who went on to become a star rapper and actor and Woods is the supporting cast member.
“I figured this guy was the perfect Carlton,” Kuchar said.
“Thank you very much,” deadpanned Woods.
With smiles and laughs at their high-five move, Woods clearly was enjoying himself.
“We’ve been good friends for a long time,” Woods said. “We went out there, had a great time and put it on them.”
Couples missed the new signature move, worrying with closer matches, but will have a chance to see Woods and Kuchar on Friday in alternate-shot foursomes, when they face South African major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who won their match after wearing wild wigs to the first tee after having bad haircuts this week.
“The celebration? I didn’t see a lot of it,” Couples said. “They really enjoy each other. I think Tiger really likes it. They told me months ago they wanted to play together.”
Kuchar became the 19th different pairs partner for Woods in Presidents or Ryder Cup play.
“We have become good friends,” Kuchar said. “I think a lot of his game and he has been helpful to me, picking his brain, asking for some help. We enjoy each other’s company. I think I may relax him a little bit out there.”