Team talk hots up at Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup team speculation gathered pace at Valhalla Golf Club on Wednesday two days ahead of Friday’s opening foursomes.

Both skippers, Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger, were under pressure to divulge information on which four pairings they had chosen to set the ball rolling in the highly anticipated clash.

And while both said they had mainly made up their minds, they insisted there was still time for changes ahead of the announcement on Thursday afternoon.

Faldo, in particular, was under interrogation over a photograph of him out on the course holding a piece of paper with player initials on it.

Asked if these were his pairings for Friday, the six-time Major winner hit back that “it just had the lunch list”.

“It had sandwich requests for the guys, just making sure who wants the tuna, who wants the beef, who wants the ham. So that’s all it was—a sandwich list.”

Pressed on the matter, Faldo later said they were in fact his pairings for Thursday’s final practice session.

“Okay, I’ve been caught. I learned a lesson.
You know the pairings [for Thursday] and we are going to play foursomes on the front nine.”

The speculation over the closely kept secrets of who will play with who is standard for the final run-in to the Ryder Cup and both sides said they were taking statements from the other camp with a pinch of salt.

Azinger on Tuesday said he was planning to unleash locals Kenny Perry and JB Holmes on the Europeans in the all-important opening foursomes in order to whip up a fan frenzy.

But asked how he would react to that, Faldo replied: “I think Paul is trying to pull a poker move here. So we will see.”

Faldo’s choice of pairings on Wednesday was mainly along national lines.

Double Open champion Padraig Harrington was with fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell, while Paul Casey paired up with English rookie Oliver Wilson.

The two Swedes, Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson, went out together as did Spanish duo Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez and Englishmen Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.

The exception was Englishman Lee Westwood teaming up with Dane Soren Hansen.

Azinger, bidding to break a three-match losing streak for the United States team, said he had his first day’s pairings done but added that they were “subject to change”.

Asked if there was any indication in the fact that he had sent out the same three foursomes together for the first two days of practice he replied: “Yeah, there’s a pattern developing. I mean common sense would tell you that.”

The three US foursomes on Tuesday and Wednesday were: rookies Hunter Mahan and Anthony Kim with veterans Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson, the Kentucky duo of Kenny Perry and JB Holmes alongside Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley, and finally Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell in harness with Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis

Azinger, who has been notably more aggressive in his approach compared with Tom Lehman two years ago in Ireland, also said that he had given little consideration as to which selections Faldo would make for the opening skirmishes.

“I’m really just focused on trying to get my team ready and get them prepared,” he said.

“I haven’t spied on them. I think they’ve got a couple of spies following us around a little bit but that’s okay.”

The official opening ceremony will be held on Thursday late afternoon with the action getting under way on Friday with four foursomes in the morning followed by four fourballs in the afternoon.—AFP

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