Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Despite the rain that fell most of the day Monday, U.S. Ryder Cup rookie Zach Johnson managed to get in some practice on the range at the K Club. (Photo: AP)

Practice hopefully makes perfect in Ryder Cup

Everything is different when players embark on practice rounds at the Ryder Cup. There are potential pairings to consider, knowing how a course sets up for match play, and, of course, the pressure of making sure one's game is in top form.

T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
September 18, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Once the practice sessions for the 2006 Ryder Cup begin at the K Club on Tuesday morning, both U.S. captain Tom Lehman and European captain Ian Woosnam, will be monitoring the practice pairings like a doctor monitoring a patient just out of surgery.

After arriving in Ireland on Monday, Lehman admitted he already had his four teams decided for the Friday morning four-ball matches. He said he's known which players would make up those teams for at least a couple of weeks -- of course he didn't divulge them. Regardless, the team will practice as such, instead of years past where the American's haven't exactly possessed a sense of team-spirit.

"I would say that these practice rounds need to be a little more fun, they need to be a little bit quicker and with a capital 'Q,'" said Lehman, who is looking to lead the U.S. to its first win since 1999. "I think we already have quite a bit of stuff put together. I don't want guys out there just hitting a bunch of balls and hitting a zillion chips and not really accomplishing anything. My idea of a practice round is going to be we're going to play 18 holes and make it count and then if guys need more practice on the golf course they are free to go out afterward, but I think it's important that we play the course and make it count."

Woosnam, who is hoping his team can reel in a third straight European victory, wouldn't go so far as to say he had his pairings decided for Friday. Instead, he'll observe the practice rounds and make his decision afterward.

"I think I'm going to go tomorrow and have a look at how everybody is playing, talk to the lads," Woosnam said. "I think it's important to see how things go tomorrow. There's so many different pairings I can use. Again, I want to see how everybody is performing over the next two days before I actually put out my pairings on Friday."

Woosnam also said he wouldn't be afraid, nor opposed, to pairing his two rookies together -- Swedes Robert Karlsson and Henrik Stenson.

"You can actually see a pairing of Stenson and Karlsson together," Woosnam said. "They have similar games. I think you might see that over the next few days, them playing together and see how they perform. I have no problem putting two rookies together."

While it seems Lehman will take more of a businesslike approach to the way his team gears up, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke -- a European captain's pick -- doesn't put much stock into the seriousness of a practice session as a veteran. The same, he admitted, can't be said for the first-time Ryder Cup players.

"I think the pressure is amongst the younger players, probably meaning the rookies that haven't played before, because they are getting to know what the whole thing is about and what it's going to be like," Clarke said. "The practice rounds are supposed to be a little bit more fun, sort of have a laugh and maybe have a gamble if somebody likes that sort of thing, and just go out and get to see the golf course. For me, practice is always to just go see the golf course I'm playing and come off and go hit some balls. The pressure starts on Friday. That's when it starts."

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