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Practice pairings may actually be a rehearsal
By Dave Shedloski, PGATOUR.COM Senior Correspondent
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Can assumptions be made based on practice round groups about the captain's pairings for the 37th Ryder Cup? Perhaps for the first day, but things are always subject to change.
Suffice it to say, however, that what fans have been seeing Tuesday and Wednesday at Valhalla Golf Club might look familiar come Friday morning.
"Yeah, there's a pattern developing," U.S. captain Paul Azinger said Wednesday afternoon with a wide grin. "I mean, common sense would tell you that. To tell you the truth, I honestly wrote down pairings before I even picked my four players. I already had an idea how I wanted to fill out my team.
"I've got the first day's pairings done, but they're subject to change," he added.
A look at the U.S. groups who played Wednesday shows U.S. mainstay Jim Furyk paired with the Kentucky boys, Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes, and Boo Weekley.
Group 2 was comprised of Stewart Cink, Steve Stricker, Ben Curtis and Chad Campbell. Group 3 had Phil Mickelson playing with Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard.
Azinger tipped his hand a bit by admitting that all 12 of his players will see action on Friday in foursomes or afternoon four-ball matches. He also said that he is leaning towards a Perry-Holmes pairing, adding, "If I should happen to do that, then I would put them out first, to get the crowd going."
Curtis and Campbell are a virtual lock to team up together. Mahan and Leonard, two Texans, might see four-ball action, but a Stricker-Mahan foursomes team is still the likely scenario in the morning session.
The Europeans toured Valhalla in threesomes on Tuesday, but captain Nick Faldo put them out in more traditional foursomes on Wednesday.
The European lineups:
Group 1: Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell.
Group 2: Oliver Wilson, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen.
Group 3: Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Ian Poulter, and Justin Rose.
There was speculation that the Spaniards might play together. Another theory gaining traction in the media center is that Garcia and Westwood, who have been a strong team, might go out first to blunt the energy of the pro-American crowd.
The Swedes, Stenson and Karlsson, are formidable. The Englishmen, Poulter and rookie Rose, also seem like a strong duo despite their inexperience. It is no stretch to think that Westwood and Casey, also from England, could share the same fairways on one or more occasions.
While Azinger was going to get his dozen dirty on Friday, Faldo would not commit to a similar intention.
"Well, there's always a plan, and there's a reality, because we've got 12 guys and who is playing their best," Faldo said. "As you know, I pick eight out of 12 so four are going to get left out. Whether they are left out of both morning and afternoon, we will see. I will obviously review it as they go through Friday morning.
"Long winded answer, if you can tell me what's going to happen Friday, I'll write it down and do it."
Allegedly, he's already got it written down. A photographer on Tuesday managed to hone in on Faldo perusing notes on potential pairings and SKY Television has circulated the photos. Faldo shrugged when confronted with this breaking development of apparent subterfuge and reacted with stealth and cunning.
"It's initials. Yeah, I put my team down in initials. And then which way I go, is my choice, yeah," he said. "I haven't put numbers next to them yet, have I? We don't know what order they will go out so some are safe. And that was on the seventh tee. And if the photographer was on the 13th or 14th, it all changed, so it's all different now."