Thursday, 18 September 2008
I awoke from my slumbers this morning to be smacked hard in the face with this image. An image of a disembodied hand holding a piece of paper with a bunch of letters scribbled on it. I was told that this could be the most crucial scrap of notepaper ever to be photographed. This could cost Europe the Ryder Cup.
"Sweet baby Jesus" I thought, "What is this, a sicknote from Harrington, Garcia and Westwood saying they've been struck down with dengue fever and can't compete?". I fervently read on for further information and discovered the full horror of the note's scribblings... This was a list of pairings for the first round of opening foursomes of the Ryder Cup, the hairy hand holding it was that of Captain Nick Faldo, "Mother of God" I cried, slapping my face in despair "All is lost, they know everything, we're beaten for sure, those yanks will give us a damn good thrashing now".
Then my head cleared and I realised, for all the hyperbole that's currently spewing out all over the place, this is simply not the case. First of all, the list only has two pairings written upon it. Last I checked, there are four groups of two to be chosen and unless Faldo is going to send out the same two pairs twice, the cat isn't entirely out of the bag. Just it's head and two front paws, it's rear is still hidden from view.
The first pairing is of Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, two of the side's big guns, who have formed a formidable partnership in the past. They won 3 points out of four together in 2002, and have an overall record of four wins, one loss, one half when paired together. I fancied that without Clarke in the picture, a reunion of this awesome partnership may be on the cards and sending them out to face the two homeboys first would be a great attempt to nullify the crowd should they win. The second pairing is a bit more of a surprise, Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson, not a previous pairing, and all the chat has been of an Irish pair and a Swedish Pair. But it is certainly another very strong pairing to make.
The next thing is the fact that several of the journalists reported Henrik Stenson's name as missing from the sheet and were querying as to why this would be the case. Where could it be I wonder? I don't know, do you think that perhaps that dash emanating from the tip of Faldo's thumb, a dash similar to the two above it may be indicative of a possible "HS" hiding beneath Faldo's manly digit? Further images of the note confirmed this to be the case; who would have thought it. It hardly would have required Mystic Meg to work it out.
The third thing is, now that Azinger is aware of these two pairings what can he do about it, assume that these will definitely be the first two out and put his big guns out first? There's nothing to indicate the order that Faldo will put them out. It could be that these were the first two pairings he settled himself on and then he'll sort the order when he settles on the other two. Maybe it will throw Azinger a bit, make him reluctant to go with his plan to play Kenny Perry and JB Holmes first if they are to face Garcia and Westwood.
As well as all this, he had a number of different lists written out on his little pad, having Lee Westwood with Soren Hansen, Garcia with Jimenez, Harrington with McDowell and Karlsson with Casey. The papers have taken the photo above and ran with it as though it's gospel, set in stone. He has all day to watch the players and make his final decision yet, it's far too early to jump to conclusions. He said we now know the pairings but do we really?
I'll be honest, he didn't handle it too well, the guff about it being the lunch list was not a funny line and was delivered terribly. But by tonight he will have announced his team anyway and he can draw a line under it. And the fact remains that whilst it is a quite embarressing thing to happen, it's not the big deal that it's being made into currently. Azinger still doesn't know the exact line-up or order his team will face it in. Yet no matter what, this will be picked over as one of the deciding factors of the cup. Should they lose the morning foursomes, and America does have a stronger record in the foursomes than they do in the fourballs which is why Azinger has scheduled them first, this will be chewed over ad infinitum by the press.
If he goes with these pairings he's let the cat out of the bag, if he changes them, he's weak and hasn't gone with his first choice. He can't really win unless his players do. I don't want to be an apologist for Faldo, I'm just a little fed up with the itching for him to mess this up. I've done it myself at times but surely he's not deserving of the amount of flak he's getting, right now. There's many an axe being ground in preparation for failure, many a knife being held aloft waiting to stick him, all wielded by beady eyed pressmen who bear a grudge against Faldo. This is just the start of it in earnest. It's a vendetta which I have grown incredibly weary of now. So what if he doesn't give straight answers to your questions, would you after all the crap he's taken throughout this build up and right through the past. I hope to God that Europe win and the worst offenders have to eat some humble pie. I hope they choke on it...