If you can’t beat ’em: Johnson, rival Spieth paired at Presidents Cup
Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson battled at Chambers Bay in the U.S. Open. They will be partners in South Korea at the Presidents Cup.
U.S. captain Jay Haas saved Spieth and Johnson for the anchor match of foursomes Thursday when the Presidents Cup begins at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. They will face Marc Leishman of Australia and Danny Lee of New Zealand.
Lee was born in Seoul before moving as a child. He will be the only Korean-born player to compete in the opening session, the first Presidents Cup held in Asia. Sangmoon Bae, who is returning home and will begin his 21-month mandatory military service after the matches, was held out because his partner, Charl Schwartzel, is still weak from a virus.
Spieth won the U.S. Open by one shot when Johnson three-putted from 12 feet on the final hole.
Haas said they asked to play together in the Presidents Cup, and it was an easy choice for the captain.
"They have been wanting this pairing," Haas said. "And what Jordan wants, Jordan gets right now. So that was our thinking there."
Spieth has dominated golf this year with two majors victories, three other PGA Tour wins, a sweep of all the major awards and the No. 1 ranking. He had a successful partnership with Patrick Reed in the Ryder Cup last year by going 2-0-1. Reed is playing with Matt Kuchar on Thursday against Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace of South Africa.
The last time Johnson was in a team event, the 2012 Ryder Cup, he and Kuchar won both their matches together at Medinah. Haas said a Reed-Spieth pairing is possible later in the week.
"Matt is pretty easy to be with," Haas said. "Patrick loves the match play aspect of it and certainly wants Jordan at some time during the course of the matches. But again, we wanted to get Jordan what he wanted here early on, and maybe that can happen down the road."
In other opening matches:
— Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, who went 1-2-1 in all four matches at Muirfield Village two years ago, will lead off against Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes.
— Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, 0-1-3 in their partnership at the Ryder Cup last year, face Anirban Lahiri and Thongchai Jaidee.
— Jason Day and Steven Bowditch put Aussie pride on the line against Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson.
The format has changed this year to eliminate four matches, meaning each team had to sit two players in the opening session for the first time since 2000. Haas sat out his son, Bill Haas, and Chris Kirk. International captain Nick Price’s decision was easier because of Schwartzel, who was in bed Wednesday morning during the final day of practice.
Asked by the Korean media why he left out Bae, Price said he didn’t want to break up any teams.
He also stayed away from Day and Spieth being in the same match, even in a team format. Spieth and Day are Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and both won five times this year.
"I’m not going to put matchups just because what the media wants, OK? And what the world wants," Price said. "I’m going to put matchups there that I feel is best for our team. That’s the most important thing. And I don’t think it would be fair to the rest of the team for me to single out one person and say, `That’s who I’m going to play against that person.’"
The United States leads the series, 8-1-1, with its only loss coming in 1998 at Australia.