Austin primed for explosive Presidents Cup debut

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MONTREAL, Sep 27 (Reuters) US captain Jack Nicklaus has urged his team to have fun at this week's Presidents Cup but it is something 43-year-old rookie Woody Austin is never likely to find easy on a golf course.

Austin, who appears closer to a breakdown than a smile when at work, is savouring every moment as a member of the US squad but concedes that, once play starts today, the party is over.

A ticking time bomb out on the course, Austin wears his heart on the sleeves of his garish golf shirts, once banging a putter over his head until the club bent.

He has consulted sports psychologists in a bid to control his emotions but has continued to beat himself up over missed shots and gives himself little chance of curbing his temper at the Presidents Cup.

''Everybody gives me grief but you are who you are,'' Austin told reporters at Royal Montreal Golf Club on Wednesday. ''You can't change your stripes, you really can't.

''I guess I could look at it from the standpoint of a John McEnroe. Do you think he would have been any good if he had changed?'' If the galleries do not hear Austin screaming at himself, they can certainly see him coming.

SOMETIMES PAINFUL His choice of shirts is much like the man who wears them, loud and sometimes painful to watch but Austin makes no apologies, even criticising the Presidents Cup team uniform.

''Well they are a little bland but they do have stripes and colour patterns which is good,'' said Austin. ''I just don't like plain, plain white, plain blue, so at least they have some stripes so they are all right.'' A former bank teller, Austin earned his way into the US team with the help of a runner-up finish behind Tiger Woods at the PGA championships and his third PGA Tour victory at this year's St. Jude Classic.

Austin will partner world number two Phil Mickelson against Internationals pairing of Fijian Vijay Singh and Canadian Mike Weir in today's opening foursomes.

''I told him (Mickelson) that it's his turn to play great because I'm just going to jump on his back,'' said Austin. ''It may get monotonous to hear it, but it's really an honour and a privilege.

''We play in a game that's such an individual game, we're trying to beat each other's brains in week-to-week but I'm so proud that I can actually call team mates this week as opposed to opponents.'' REUTERS BJT PM1328

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