Woods/Furyk pairing leads 1st session for U.S.
Given their success in the 2005 Presidents Cup, it was no surprise that Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk will be the first pairing out for the U.S. when the 2006 Ryder Cup commences Friday at the K Club. Still, captain Tom Lehman came up with a surprise or two.
T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 21, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland -- When the pairings were announced for the first set of four fourball matches at the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club, U.S. captain Tom Lehman unveiled two predictable pairings and two surprises.
As expected, Lehman elected to give the 8 a.m. first-match nod to the duo of Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, respectively, Woods and Furyk will battle it out against Europe's finest in Irishman Padraig Harrington and perennial Ryder Cup hero Colin Montgomerie of Scotland.
"No surprise there," Lehman said about his marquee pairing and the Europeans they'll square off against in the alternate-shot first session. "Not surprised in the least to see who is playing that match. I think it will be a great match. I pretty much expected that and they probably expected who we have as well."
Also rather obvious, the pairing of Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson will anchor the Friday morning session, playing against Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and England's Lee Westwood -- both of European captain Ian Woosnam's wildcard selections.
What wasn't so clear were Lehman's two middle pairings: captain's pick Stewart Cink and Ryder Cup rookie J.J. Henry against England's Paul Casey -- No. 1 on the European Tour's Order of Merit -- and Swedish Ryder rookie Robert Karlsson; and David Toms and Cup first-timer Brett Wetterich against Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal.
"When we were here a month ago, they played together," Lehman said of Cink and Henry. "It's one of those things when we came over, we were looking just to see what might work, what kind of connection might there be between different guys. They just hit it off immediately ... they just click. There's something about that twosome that it works."
As for Toms and Wetterich?
"The golf course is playing very long and with the wind blowing the way it's been, if it continues to blow the way it's been, length is a really big deal," Lehman said. "I think it's a fantastic pairing. Brett is playing extremely well. He hits it a long way. He's very strong. And he has a partner who is incredibly steady, someone he can really trust and count on, somebody who is able to calm somebody down. It will be a partner who has a real calming influence on him and that's what David Toms provides. He provides a great game and very much a calming influence."
Woods and Furyk were a terrific team for the American side at the 2005 Presidents Cup, racking up a stellar 2-0-1 record en route to the U.S. win over the Internationals. DiMarco and Mickelson were also impressive at that Presidents Cup, picking up a healthy 3.5 points for the U.S., with DiMarco canning the Cup-clinching putt on the 18th hole.
"I think you generally have an idea of what teams may do based on history," Lehman said. I spent a lot of time over the last few months just looking over the results of the previous Ryder Cups going all the way back to the '70s, just to kind of see if there's a consistent pattern in the pairings. It is, you know, the best team out first, the best team out first, do they put them in the middle and I found that there is a pattern. A lot of captains have done it in very similar ways and a lot of captains have done it differently and there seems to be a pattern."
Woods, for one, is looking forward to getting started.
"We're excited, both of us," he said. "We have got two of Europe's best on the first day, so it will be a fun match and hopefully we'll be able to get it started and get the momentum on our side going out early."
For the Europeans, Montgomerie and Harrington have an impressive 3-1 record together in the Ryder Cup. Clarke and Westwood have also been a force with a 4-2 record as a team.
Woosnam admitted that while putting together his pairings he did give thought to the potential lineup Lehman would field.
"I will say I thought they were going to come out as strong as they possibly could, and I expected Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to be off first and I had an inkling that obviously Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco would be off last," he said. "I think with Padraig and Colin off first and Darren and Lee off last, I think that's going to be two fantastic fourballs."
Surprisingly, aside from this year the only other Ryder Cup team Garcia and Olazabal have been on was in 1999 -- the last time the Americans won -- at the Country Club in Brookline. This will be the first time they team up.
"I see them as the new Seve [Ballersteros] and Olazabal," Woosnam said, referencing the classic pairing that went an amazing 11-2-2 in Ryder Cup play. "Olazabal has been around for a long time and he has a lot of experience and the enthusiasm he has this week has been incredible. Keeping him off the golf course has been the hardest thing. With Sergio, he's been around a while now and he's such a fantastic player. They are just going to work beautifully together."
The Europeans are looking to win the Ryder Cup for the third time in a row, while the Americans hope to win for the first time since their historical Sunday singles charge at Brookline in 1999 when they made up four-point deficit on the final day to top the Europeans 14.5 - 13.5.
3 a.m. ET
Tiger Woods/Jim Furyk v. Padraig Harrington/Colin Montgomerie
3:15 a.m. ET
Stewart Cink/J.J. Henry v. Paul Casey/Robert Karlsson
3:30 a.m. ET
David Toms/Brett Wetterich v. Sergio Garcia/Jose Maria Olazabal
3:45 a.m. ET
Phil Mickelson/Chris DiMarco v. Darren Clarke/Lee Westwood
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