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This is one of the longest American teams in history. But the straightest?

They should find out immediately with a compelling match _ Mickelson and Johnson, who play big-money games just about every week on tour, going against Lee Westwood and PGA champion Martin Kaymer, Europe’s best player and its most recent major champion.

For Westwood, it will be his first competition in six weeks while he recovered from a calf injury. Playing his seventh Ryder Cup, he went to Montgomerie a few days ago and asked to be in the leadoff match.

Montgomerie had thought about U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy leading off.

“It was just seen that Lee should hit the first shot,” Montgomerie said. “I think it’s a real honor to do that, and I’ve had that honor twice. And it’s only right that Lee Westwood at this time should have that.”

McDowell and McIlroy, the duo from Northern Ireland, play in the second match against Georgia Tech alums Cink and Matt Kuchar. For now, that deprives fans of a McIlroy-Woods match of any form. McIlroy had said he would “love to face” Woods, and Woods countered with a no-nonsense “Me, too,” that stirred Ryder Cup tensions.

Stricker is the 12th partner for Woods in this event _ two short of the Ryder Cup record. But everyone saw this one coming. They went 4-0 at the Presidents Cup last year, the first tandem in any cup to do that in 30 years.

“Hopefully, Tiger and I can go out there and do the things that we know how to do,” Stricker said. “And, hopefully, it’s good enough for a win.”

Montgomerie stoked speculation, however, by feigning surprise that Woods was in the middle of the lineup.

“I was expecting Tiger to go first or fourth,” he said. “I think Tiger being hidden is a different move. But, as we all know, every point is important wherever it might be. It’s a very difficult game, mind you, probably the two best putters on the U.S. team.”

He was even more surprised to see Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton _ a pair of rookies whom many consider the most likely affected by Ryder Cup nerves _ in the final spot against Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald.

In doing so, Pavin sat out Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan.

Furyk is the only American with three victories this year, including his $11.35 million payoff for winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup on Sunday.

“He’s been counting the money, and he’s been very tired,” Pavin said with a laugh.

Mahan went unbeaten in all five matches at his Ryder Cup debut two years ago. Pavin said only that four players have to sit, and he planned to get all 12 a match on Friday.

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