Melbourne: Tiger Woods enjoyed a shot of confidence with a third-place finish at the Australian Open but knows it will be "brutal" playing the locally-stacked Internationals team for the Presidents Cup this week, U.S. team captain Fred Couples said.
Couples came under fire for confirming Woods, without a win for two years, as one of his captain`s picks months before the cut-off date, but the former number one went some way to vindicating his selection against a strong field in Sydney last week.
"I believe in all 12 of my guys. I picked two of them, and it`s been a little bit here or there, but he had a great week last week," Couples told reporters on the first day of official practice on Tuesday.
"He enjoyed the guys he played against and he knows this week is going to be brutal. It was nice to see him play well.
"But for Tiger, he`s always got the `X` on his back and everyone watches how he does, and I felt like on Saturday night, we had dinner and he came up and he goes, `You know, I had a rough day out there, I didn`t hit many bad shots, but you watch tomorrow`," added Couples, referring to Woods`s surrender of the Australian Open lead with a wayward third round 75.
"I did watch and he had a great round and he`s pretty confident."
Since losing in his first Presidents Cup appearance at Royal Melbourne in 1998, Woods has been a stalwart in the side and his pairing with Steve Stricker at the last edition in San Francisco was instrumental in sinking the Internationals 19 1/2-14 1/2.
The Americans have enjoyed a solid preparation with only one hiccup in the form of a minor shoulder injury to Hunter Mahan, and Couples, famous for his easy swing and laid-back demeanour, said the team had enjoyed blowing off some steam in Melbourne.
"You know, Australia is an incredible place to come visit. Obviously to play golf is fun," he added.
"And so the guys that were there last week, Hunter Mahan hurt his neck, so he rested to be ready. Matt Kuchar missed the cut (in Sydney). But they had a great time.
"And they visited things, they did things, so they took their mind off getting up here and worrying about Royal Melbourne or how hard it is.”
"But once we got here, we are in a world-class hotel. We are gambling a little bit. The girls went on a wine trip. It`s a pretty peaceful town.”
"And so for this kind of a week, it`s... like me, we want to be laid back. The Aussies are laid back, so we are having a blast."
The Americans who arrived early and hit Royal Melbourne en masse on Monday, have won six of the tournament`s eight editions but have never won on foreign soil. Their only loss was at Royal Melbourne in 1998, while they drew the 2003 edition in South Africa.
Despite the U.S. enjoying a clear advantage in rankings and boasting a match-play master in Woods, Couples was cautious about his team`s chances of breaking their duck away from home.
"In `98, I was there," said Couples of the United States defeat. "We were not a factor.
"It was very important for me to let everyone know back in May that whoever is on this team, I want you playing the week before.
"We know what we are up against, and it`s going to be tough just like it`s been tough for them since this thing started."
The ninth Presidents Cup starts on Thursday with the opening foursome matches.