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GOLF ASSOCIATION OF MICHIGAN

Day 3 – Practice Round & Pairings Announcements for Friday’s AM Matches

Day 3 – Practice Round/Pairings Announcements for Friday AM matches/Opening Ceremonies

THE TEAMS

Team USA
This years Ryder Cup team will attempt to turn the fortunes of the Matches back toward victory. They have lost the last three biennial events in a row; won by one point in a miracle finish in 1999 at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass. and lost the two events before that.

Since 1981, they are 5-7-1. The composition of this years squad is a blend of veterans and Ryder Cup rookies. Collectively the team has experience in 17 previous Ryder Cups but six of the players have none. The average age of the team is 34.25 years; slightly older than their European counterparts.

Anthony Kim is the baby of the group at 23 while Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry are in their 40’s. For flexibility in player selection, Captain Azinger adopted a new policy approved by the PGA by having four Captain’s picks following the selection of #’s 2 through 9 on the PGA Tour money list. (Tiger Woods is #1, but is sidelined following major knee surgery). Azinger’s personal picks included Chad Campbell, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker.

Here is the roster of the United States team:
Phil Mickelson, Cal. Ben Curtis, Ohio
Stewart Cink, Ga. Boo Weekley, Fl.
Kenny Perry, Ky. Chad Campbell, Tx.
Jim Furyk, Fl. J.B. Holmes, Ky.
Anthony Kim, Tx. Hunter Mahan, Tx.
Justin Leonard, Tx. Steve Stricker, Wisc.

There is a feeling that a Perry/Holmes pairing (both from Kentucky) on Friday morning could get the 40,000 patrons pulling in the direction of Team USA. A look at the team’s makeup and hometowns have you wondering why the Ryder Cup isn’t being played in Texas. If recent matches are a barometer, the Americans have to do a better job of playing as a team and putting on those green surfaces.

TEAM EUROPE

The make up of the 2008 twelve man squad averages 33 years of age (one year younger on average than Team USA). The “old man” of the group is Miguel Angel Jiminez at 44. Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Oliver Wilson are the kids on the team at 28. Amazingly, Garcia is already playing in the Ryder Cup for the fifth time with a remarkable 14-4-2 record, including 8-0 in foursomes (alternate shot format).

Captain Faldo only had two captains picks using the European Tour format and selected fellow Englanders Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Together, these two have three previous Ryder Cups under their belts. Lee Westwood, another Brit, is the true veteran of the team. He is currently ranked #12 in the World Golf Rankings and his record in his five times as a member of Team Europe is 14-8-3. In the last two matches (Oakland Hills and the K Club), Westwood has 7 wins, no losses and 2 halves. Unfortunately for him, his two favorite partners in 2004 and 2006 were Colin Montgomerie and Irishman Darren Clark. Captain Faldo chose to leave those two dynamic Europeans off this years squad.

Many members of the media, including veteran European writers that I have talked to, consider the European Ryder Cup rookies as the team’s “X” factor. In the case of Graeme McDowell (29) and Oliver Wilson (28), their youth plus a lack of international experience could be a negative for Team Europoe. Consider that Wilson has not won any tour event anywhere since turning professional in 2003. His college golf in the United States was at Augusta State. With Captain Faldo being a native Englander, it is paradoxical that the team has five players from England with two from Spain and Sweden and one each from Denmark, Ireland and Northern Ireland. There is no player from Wales where the next Ryder Cup will be held in 2010 at Celtic Manor.

Here is Team Europe:
Paul Casey, England Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland
Sergio Garcia, Spain Ian Poulter, England
Soren Hansen, Denmark Justin Rose, England
Padgaig Harrington, Ireland Lee Westwood, England
Miguel Angel Jiminez, Spain Henrik Stenson, Sweden
Robert Karlsson, Sweden Oliver Wilson, England

As the Friday morning pairings are awaited with great anticipation (they will be announced by the Captains at the Opening Ceremonies on Thursday afternoon), conjecture is rampant as to who the eight players for each side will be. Inside that story, it will be whom the captains pair for the morning alternate shot format. Everone wonders if both captains will bring out their “bombers” paired with the best wedge players. On this almost 7,500 yard layout with all of the par 4’s and 5’s having some fashion of a dogleg, accuracy and distance are both factors; only play tomorrow will illustrate what parameter dictates how the course is played. As an example, in yesterday’s practice round, J.B. Holmes hit a driver and pitching wedge on 511 yard par 4 16th hole named “Down the Stretch.”

Stay tuned. This could be great golf and a lot of fun. The matches commence at 8:05 AM tomorrow morning.

8:05 – Mickelson/Kim v Harrington/Karlson

8:20 – Leonard/Mahan v Stenson/Casey

8:35 – Cink/Campbell v Rose/Poulter

8:40 – Perry/Furyk v Westwood/Sergio

Jim Judge
GAM Correspondent

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