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Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson approved of the way they played during Tuesday's practice session. (Getty Images)

As practice begins, Pavin looks to get the chemistry of his pairings right

The United States took to the Twenty Ten Course as a team for the first time Tuesday, with Captain Corey Pavin stressing that success will come only if his players perform up to the level that both he and they expect.

NEWPORT, Wales (PA Sport) – U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin hinted that form, not friendship, will be the key to his pairings this week at Celtic Manor.

It has been traditional for close friends to make winning partnerships in the biennial contest, with the likes of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal and Fred Couples and Davis Love proving highly successful.

European players also have often been paired on the basis of a common nationality or languages spoken, but Pavin appeared to favor a more pragmatic approach as his players enjoyed their first practice round on the Twenty Ten Course on Tuesday.

Asked why Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker had been so successful in last year's Presidents Cup -- they won all four of their matches together -- Pavin said: "They are both great players.

"Tiger has been No. 1 in the world for a long time and Steve was playing great last year at the time,” he explained. “Those were probably the top two, maybe two of the top three (at the time). It's a pretty healthy combination.

"Steve is a great putter, gets the ball in the hole and makes important putts, and Tiger is pretty good at it too,” he added. “When any two players are playing well, they are going to be tough to beat, it doesn't matter who they are.

"When you partner up with somebody and you win your matches, there's some good chemistry there. But you do have to play. You have to perform,” he stressed. "Just because there is good chemistry doesn't mean you're going to win your match. You have to perform and make your putts and you have to hit good shots."

It appears unlikely Pavin will take his approach to its logical extreme, however, namely pairing the world's top two players -- Woods and Phil Mickelson -- together as Hal Sutton did in 2004.

Although the pair wasn’t exactly the best of friends, Sutton not only put them out first on the opening morning at Oakland Hills, but stuck with them in the afternoon after a defeat to Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington -- and then watched them lose again to Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

Woods and Stricker were in the same group on Tuesday morning along with Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan, although Pavin was keen not to give too much away.

"I guess hindsight will be good on Thursday when the pairings are announced," added Pavin, who also put out Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson together, with the final group containing Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

"The guys are playing in groups for a reason and it will become obvious later,” he said. “I think you'll see different groupings tomorrow and looking at a lot of the different combinations with the guys."

Although Pavin's team currently holds the Ryder Cup after victory at Valhalla two years ago, the United States hasn’t won on European soil since 1993. But Pavin feels that will not be playing on the minds of his players, with five of them being rookies and three others having only played once before.

"There's a lot of new blood on our team," added Pavin, who played on the last U.S. team to win in Europe, winning three points out of five at The Belfry.

"I think we have a lot of aggressive, positive players and they are just going to go out and play. I don't think they look at the history books in that regard,” he added. "I want to have them look at it as a challenge and go out there and try to win for the first time in 17 years."

Tom Watson was the U.S. captain in 1993, but Pavin revealed he had never forgotten what 1995 Captain Lanny Wadkins had said to him in the lead-up to the contest at Oak Hill.

"I was playing very well in '95, had won the U.S. Open, and he called me up a couple of weeks before (the Ryder Cup) and said 'Just make sure you're in shape to play five matches,"' Pavin said. "Even though I felt pretty good about my game, him giving me that confidence that he wanted me to play that much is something I'll always remember.

"The perception is that guys that are playing great don't need to be talked to,” he added. “They need encouragement as well. You can never be short on compliments to the players on the team and I've always remembered that. I'm certainly using it this week."
 

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