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Woods, Couples continue golden Presidents Cup alliance

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Presidents Cup has showcased high-quality pairings throughout its 25-year history but none have endured quite like the dynamic duo of Tiger Woods and Fred Couples.

The President Cup has never run without the involvement of at least one of Woods or Couples in one role or another, and at Royal Melbourne this week they will team up for the seventh time in the United States' cause.

The pair were playing team mates in 1998 at Royal Melbourne when the United States tasted their one and only defeat to the International team.

Thirteen years later, with Couples in charge as captain, Woods rolled in the winning putt at the sandbelt course.

The wheel has turned full circle in 2019, with Couples reporting to Woods as an assistant this week as the 15-times major champion becomes only the second playing captain in the history of the tournament.

Both have had their bumps and bruises through long careers in the sport but their friendship has only strengthened through two decades of dominating the biennial team tournament, which the United States have won 10 out of 12 times.

"He is a heck of a captain, which you would think, and he's a great player to be on your team," 60-year-old Couples told reporters of Woods on Wednesday.

"So we have both. It's fun to see him in action, and ... he's one of my favorite people in the world. So it's really an honor to be his assistant."

Couples and Woods were both assistants to captain Steve Stricker when his U.S. team routed the Internationals 19-11 at Liberty National, New Jersey, two years ago.

Five-times Presidents Cup player Stricker has returned as an assistant captain to Woods this week in the battle of wits against International team skipper Ernie Els and his staff.

At 43, Woods is the youngest captain and the first to play and lead at the same time since Hale Irwin captained the Americans to victory in the inaugural 1994 tournament.

Woods's leadership has been a mixture of fun and "scary" obsession, said Couples, who spoke of receiving text messages from him about preparations at highly unsociable hours.

"It's very fun to be around him," said former Masters champion Couples, the only Presidents Cup captain with a 3-0 winning record.

"I've got to tell you, he's a pretty funny, tough guy when he gets you in a corner, and he doesn't let up, which I like."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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