Both captains give hints at Friday pairings
Tuesday's practice session at the K Club was far from a vailed attempt to disguise possible pairings for Friday's opening matches as both Tom Lehman and Ian Woosnam sent out groups they said we can expect to see when the Ryder Cup begins.
T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 19, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- With abundant sunshine, a crisp chill in the air and a steady breeze, The K Club had the look and feel of a late-fall day in New England during the first official practice session of the 2006 Ryder Cup on Tuesday.
U.S. captain Tom Lehman and European captain Ian Woosnam both sent their players out in teams of two to compete against one another in a four-ball format.
In four-ball, which will be the first set of matches contested when the Ryder Cup begins on Friday, each member of the two-man teams plays his own ball. Four balls are in play per hole with each of the four players competing. The team whose player has the lowest score on that hole wins the hole. If players from each team tie for the best score, the hole is halved.
There were few surprises in the line-ups each captain sent out Tuesday.
The three American groups consisted of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk with Scott Verplank and Brett Wetterich; Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson with David Toms and Chad Campbell; and Vaughn Taylor and Zach Johnson with Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry.
Woosnam went with Colin Montgomerie and David Howell with Paul Casey and Luke Donald; Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson with Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia; and Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley with Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke.
Woods/Furyk, DiMarco/Mickelson and Toms/Campbell -- who have all had success together in the Presidents Cup -- all seem to be sure pairings come Friday as the Americans look to pick up their first Ryder Cup win since 1999.
"I think they have a very good chance of playing together," Lehman said. "We had some good groups today. They moved around. They played nine holes with one guy, nine holes with another guy. Tomorrow they will have different things going on out there. Tomorrow we'll play alternate-shot. But there were no secrets. I think we all know that there's a good chance that those guys will play together."
Interestingly, Lehman paired Taylor and Johnson together -- two Ryder Cup rookies with a combined three PGA Tour career wins. However, Woosnam also put two rookies together in Stenson and Karlsson, both Swedes.
"I felt that was going to be pretty obvious and that was going to happen," Woosnam said, alluding to Lehman's Tuesday practice roster. "Some of the other pairings, I didn't see that, Vaughn Taylor and Zach Johnson, a couple of rookies together -- I'm playing two rookies together as well. Robert Karlsson has been around a long time, he's won a lot of tournaments. Stenson has won a lot of tournaments as well and I don't classify them as rookies. I know they are rookies in this, but I classify them as pretty experienced players."
For the most part, Woosnam had his pairings down to country of origin, with the exception of Montgomerie (Scotland) and Howell (England) and past Ryder Cup forces Clarke (Northern Ireland) and Westwood (England).
"I think you can read a little bit into that I think," Woosnam said. "But again, for Friday, it's important that I go out as strong as possible, and I think as I said in the team room last night, it's important that the guys are honest with themselves, honest with me and how they feel like they are playing. It's important that we go out with the strongest team on Friday morning."
Tuesday proved to be a short day for the Americans and Lehman expects that to be the case throughout the practice sessions.
"Our practice schedule is pretty much 7 o'clock to 1 o'clock today and tomorrow," Lehman said. "From that 1 o'clock to whatever the obligations are this evening, the guys are free. Free to practice, chipping, putting, if they want to play a few holes they can. If they want to go back to the hotel and take a nap, they can. It's the idea of having team practice and then outside of the team practice time is time to do what you need to do."
The reason for Lehman's philosophy on downtime and practice time pretty much boiled down to Woods, but applies to everyone.
"If you notice, Tiger is gone, he's not on the course," Lehman said. "We're out here early. He practiced, he hit balls, he putted, he chipped. At 1:30 he was gone. He has from 1:30-5:30 to workout and have some downtime. It's always something that he's wanted to do in the Ryder Cup is have some time where he can relax and have time to himself. He'll go back to the hotel and he'll workout for a couple of hours, take a nap, go hang out in the team room, but have some time where he can kind of exhale. I think that's very important."
On Wednesday, both teams will be out practicing in the alternate-shot format.
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