Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ryder Cup Pairings: Is U.S. In Trouble Already?

When U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin announced his pairings for Friday morning's four-ball matches to start play, he went with three solid and unsurprising teams and one real shocker.

It was no surprise that Pavin matched Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson; Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker; and, Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.

The eye-opener was Jeff Overton and Bubba Watson together. They're both rookies with a lot of nervous energy that could work well or blow up. Obviously, Pavin is counting on it to produce magic.

It also meant sitting Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan in the morning along with rookie Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson. That's the tough part of captaining a Ryder Cup -- telling four guys they can't play during each of the first four sessions.

Here's my take on the opening set of matches (on at 2:30 a.m. on ESPN if you're up that early/late):

-- Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson vs. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer: Talk about a strong start. The Phil-Dustin pairing has been in the works for a while. They get along, they play long-ball and when they get on a roll, watch out.

They're going up against a formidable pair of Europeans, who aren't likely to make many mistakes. Westwood hasn't played a tournament in about two months but reportedly made eight birdies in a practice round at Celtic Manor. Tough to pick a favorite in this one.

-- Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar vs. Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy: You get the feeling European captain Colin Mongomerie is banking on the boys from Northern Ireland to be his stallions this weekend. This is a match the Europeans expect to win. Cink is sneaky good in these events, though, and he'll be a perfect calming influence for Kuchar.

-- Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker vs. Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher: This is a must-win for the Americans. Woods and Stricker were invincible together in the Presidents Cup last fall and need to be that way again if the U.S. is to retain the Cup. Woods gets good vibes playing with Stricker but both have struggled with their putting in recent weeks. That's a concern. A loss in this match could be potentially devastating for the U.S.

-- Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton vs. Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington: Could the two pairings be more different? The Euros have two classic grinders while the U.S. is throwing out power and emotion. This one could swing wildly in either direction. How will Watson and Overton handle the moment? Can Harrington find his missing form? I give the edge to Europe in this one.

It's important for the U.S. to stay even or get a lead early. At first glance, getting out of Friday morning tied 2-2 would feel like a win for the Americans.


TBirdsCoach said...

I am surprised Furyk isn't playing in the first session after winning the Fedex Cup, and because he is putting so well. You have to figure he could make a lot of birdies. His game is well suited to the afternoon foursomes, but I would have put him in the morning four-ball.

Anonymous said...

Pavin must know something no one else in the world does, sitting Furyk. That's the one glaring mistake I see.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Furyk is 1-7-2 in Four Ball might have something to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Corey Pavin is one of the worst ryder cup captains in history. His pairings were so far off on Monday it made me ill. We need a leader who is adaptive and aware enough to change pairings based on the score and players after 3rd round. Mahan against McDowell? We lost because of lack of leadership, pure and simple.