Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image A majority of bettors have turned their back on Tiger Woods and the U.S. team. (Photo: AP)

Notebook: Taking on Tiger is probably not a good idea

Paul Casey got to play Tiger Woods in singles at the 2004 Ryder Cup because there was no way to say no thanks. Plus, the betting line shows the Americans as slight underdogs, the Wednesday forecast is wet, and more.

September 19, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) -- Word at Oakland Hills two years ago was that Paul Casey had a hunch that Tiger Woods would be first off in singles, and that the European rookie wanted a crack at him.

It was a good story, Casey concedes, but not entirely correct.

"Would you volunteer to play Tiger?" Casey said.

Casey said he was riding in a cart Saturday afternoon with European Captain Bernhard Langer and teammate Darren Clarke when Langer told them he had a few people in mind to send out first in singles, figuring Woods would lead off for the Americans.

"And he turned and looked at both of us," Casey said. "To which Darren leaned across to me, patted me on the back and said, 'Paul, you'll be fantastic!' It was just typical Clarkey. He was trying to give me confidence and he thought I was up for the task, I guess."

He was wrong. Woods breezed past Casey, winning 3 & 2.

"What can you do? Can't refuse either of those two guys," Casey said of his response to Clarke and Langer.

And would he do it again?

Casey smiled.

"Maybe not the same fashion as that," he said.

EUROPEAN BACKING: The Europeans are getting some respect from where it counts: the pockets of bettors who like the chances of the defending champions.

Bookmakers William Hill credited a patriotic surge for the money on Europe, which is a slight favorite in most betting lines.

"It now seems certain that Ian Woosnam's team will go into the opening hole of the event as odds-on favorites -- the first time that has been the case," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

Europe isn't much of a favorite, though. The betting line barely favors the Europeans at 10-11 odds, while the Americans are 11-10 underdogs.

To show how close oddsmakers think things will be, a tie is only a 9-1 pick.

CHIPS AHOY: Tom Lehman started getting a little worried himself when he noticed airport workers warily eyeing the massive amount of luggage the American team brought overseas.

With good reason -- he had something to do with the added weight.

Lehman, who lives in Arizona, loves tortilla chips and salsa. He also knows from past experience that, while the Irish make a great stew, you can't find good chips and salsa in Ireland.

"So rather than try to find it, we decided we're going to bring our own corn tortillas, and you can make your own chips and salsa," Lehman said.

Lehman's wife, Melissa, ordered several large bags of the tortillas and Lehman packed them into his golf travel bag. Trouble was, when he tried to move it, he couldn't get it off the ground. Lehman said his golf bag must have weighed 500 pounds loaded down with the tortillas. He won't have that problem on the way home.

"A one-way trip, absolutely, because we're going to eat those babies," he said.

DIVOTS: Lehman will get to play his own team competition this year. Lehman will join Johnson and Cink on the PGA Tour team at the Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge, to be held Nov. 14 in Las Vegas. The silly season event matches three-player teams from the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour. ... The forecast for Wednesday's practice round was 100 percent of rain and wind up to 30 mph. ... Ryder Cup officials issued a list of the players' wives or partners who have joined them at The K Club. Sergio Garcia is with Morgan Leigh Norman, the daughter of Greg Norman. They have been dating about two months.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Lehman is higher in the world ranking (No. 39) than four of his Ryder Cup players.

FINAL WORD: "If he played five matches here like he plays in 95 percent of the major championships, he's going to win four or five points. Judging by how we've done here recently, that would be a nice boost." -- Scott Verplank on Tiger Woods.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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