Saturday, 20 September 2008

Ryder Cup Foursome pairings Morning Two - Faldo responds to yesterday maulings by dropping his two record performers. Ballsy or just plain nuts?

There was one thing I never would have dreamed would cross the mind of Nick Faldo this week - dropping either of Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia. But he's gone and "rested" the pair of them for the morning foursomes today, a session which has taken on monumental importance in Europe's attempts to defend their trophy. It's a decision which seemed unthinkable when you look at the records of the two players. Yesterday, while not a vintage day for either of them, saw Westwood extend his unbeaten record in Ryder Cup matches to 12 in a row, matching the benchmark set by American legend Arnold Palmer; Garcia, while losing his 100% record in foursomes yesterday, got a half to have a record of 8.5 points from a possible 9. Both still young and fit, playing every match would hardly be a problem for them and this is the first session either of them will have sat out at a Ryder Cup.

It's more than a bold decision, if this doesn't come off and Europe struggle this morning he shall probably never be forgiven. His thinking behind it is to get some fresh legs out there and I guess he expects Westwood and Garcia to then come in and have an even bigger impact in the afternoon. It would be good logic were Europe the ones with a three point lead, but to rest two players who have Ryder Cup records far and away the best on the team when you're chasing the game is inviting trouble and the knives of the press. This is the first thing I think the press will be justified in going after Nick Faldo for should it not come off. Finger's crossed it doesn't blow up in his face.

The men he has sent out are as follows.

Stewart Cink/Chad Campbell v Ian Poulter/Justin Rose
Justin Leonard/Hunter Mahan v MA Jimenez/Graeme McDowell
Phil Mickelson/Anthony Kim v Henrik Stenson/Oliver Wilson
Jim Furyk/Kenny Perry v Padraig Harrington/Robert Karlsson

Azinger has gone with the same pairings ad he sent out yesterday morning, with a few adjustments to the order. Surprisingly he has kept faith with Chad Campbell after he became the jammiest winner of a point in Ryder Cup history yesterday. I'm sure Stewart Cink will not relish having to carry his considerable weight today once more and will have him warned to get his act together. It will be a rematch of yesterday's third foursome match as Poulter and Rose seek revenge for yesterday's, partially self inflicted, mugging. Their win in the fourballs will hopefully have settled the nerves of the pair.

The form pair of yesterday's matches was Leonard & Mahan, with Justin Leonard in particular emerging as a titan for the American side. Faldo has put faith in Miguel Angel Jimenez, who didn't have the greatest match last evening and Graeme McDowell who did show some excellent form but was done in the end by a mesmeric performance from Phil Mickelson who played a fair share of his quota of Mickelson miracles yesterday.

Mickelson and Kim will no longer face the stern challenge of Padraig Harrington after two marathon battles with the Open Champion. Instead the world number 6 Henrik Stenson, whose partnership with Paul Casey did not blossom yesterday morning, will try his luck against them with another Englishman, debutant Oliver Wilson. What a game to be dropped into for the rookie, left out all of yesterday and now sent out to do a job on the on fire Phil Mickelson. It's a massive, massive ask for the Europeans here.

Harrington, moved down the order for today to anchor the side instead of lead it out, hasn't been thrown an easy task. Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk were formidable in the morning match against Garcia and Westwood, until the 17th hole where Kenny Perry had a mini meltdown, missing a putt to win and throwing it in the water on 18 to draw having been 2 up with 2 to play.
Paired with Karlsson once more, Harrington will be itching to get some points on the board today. He shot a combined 8 under par with McDowell last night and it still wasn't enough to win. Surely if he gets the luck that Westwood enjoyed yesterday, he'll get that win he's been waiting for.

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