Nick Faldo addresses the media for the final time before the matches begin(Getty Images)

Captains show their hands as pairings revealed

By Steve Todd-

Print News

Captains Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger set up a mouthwatering opening foursomes matches to kick off The 2008 Ryder Cup, with three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington and in-from Robert Karlsson taking on World Number Two Phil Mickleson and rookie Anthony Kim.

Harrington and Karlsson will tee up at 8.05am local time amidst what is sure to be an electric atmosphere on the first hole at Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, as The European Team begins its bid to win a record fourth successive Ryder Cup.

The experienced pairing of Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, who played together in 2002 and 2004, will anchor Faldo's Friday morning foursomes at 8.50am, taking on Kentuckian Kenny Perry and partner Jim Furyk.

In between, Henrik Stenson and Captain's pick Paul Casey will take Justin Leonard and Hunter Mayan at 8.20am while Faldo has paired Englishman Justin Rose and Ian Poulter together to face Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell at 8.50am.

Faldo, who announced his foursomes along with Azinger at Thursday's Opening Ceremony, is confident that his pairings will get Europe's Ryder Cup challenge off to a flying start.

"We are very fortunate that we're in this position this week," he said. "I've got a very strong team. I had a couple of good options, but this is the one I've gone with, to open with our current Open and US PGA Champion, and the most recent winner anywhere out of two teams, Robert Karlsson.

"Then it's Henrik and Paul Casey, two guys who bomb it a mile. I've been very impressed with Rose and Poulter. I spoke to them yesterday and their eyes came alive, so that was a nice moment for me. And bringing up the rear, a former partnership, with the consistency of Lee and the passion of Sergio, I think you agree that's a pretty strong four pairing. Eight pretty strong guys."

Having announced his pairing and watched the players on their final practice round, Faldo is now raring to go when the action gets under way for real on Friday morning.

"I'm loving every minute of this," he said. This really is the best experience I've ever had inside or outside the ropes. This is the most special week of my life right now, and we haven't even started yet. That's just the practice rounds. I really am having a really special time with the way we're getting on, the team, all that we're doing together. This is the best.

"We've had some great moments already," he added. "Tomorrow we stick the peg in the ground on and then the real stuff starts."

United States Captain Azinger revealed that Mickleson, the highest ranked player at Valhalla, approached him prior to The Ryder Cup and asked to play with Kim.

He said: "They expressed an interest in being paired together as soon as Anthony Kim locked up his spot.

"Mickelson called me personally and said he'd love to play with him, but so did about six other guys I said, "Way to go out on a limb, Phil - you want Anthony Kim, really?" So I granted his wish for this first go around.

"The only thing that I wasn't sure of was the order for the most part, but I was pretty secure as soon as I picked my four players that this was my first day," he added.

"I was really happy during the week to see that everybody was playing well and that I didn't have to make any real adjustments.

"Kenny and Furyk together looked like to me to be an easy first day. They practiced together all week, as did Cink and Campbell. Cink could have been with a number of people, but I felt Chad was a good fit. Justin and Hunter get along beautifully. They've known each other for a long time. I thought they made sense. They're great ball strikers. Chad and Stewart hit it well, as well."

On a day when Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest sporting icons the world has ever seen, visited both teams at Valhalla, the announcement of the opening Foursome pairings signals the end to all of the pre-Ryder Cup sparring. It's finally time for the action to begin.