- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

OPENING FOUR-BALLS

3 a.m.Tiger Woods/Jim Furyk (USA) vs. Colin Montgomerie/Padraig Harrington (EUR)

The Americans’ top tandem is the strongest possible pairing on the property, while Europe counters with their de facto captain (Montgomerie) and the local boy (Harrington).

Monty and Harrington dropped Hal Sutton’s ill-fated duo of Tiger/Phil Mickelson to start the Ryder rout of 2004. That was then, with a less-committed Woods playing with an ill-suited partner. Things will start with a reverse statement this time around.

Prediction: Woods/Furyk win 5 & 3

3:15 a.m.Stewart Cink/J.J. Henry (USA) vs. Paul Casey/Robert Karlsson (EUR)

Tom Lehman’s weakest pairing features the steady Cink and a poor-putting rookie against European bombers Casey and Karlsson.

The U.S. pair simply won’t make enough birdies to keep pace with last week’s World Match Play champion (Casey) and the massively long Swede.

Prediction: Casey/Karlsson win 3 & 2

3:30 a.m.David Toms/Brett Wetterich (USA) vs. Sergio Garcia/Jose Maria Olazabal (EUR)

This could be America’s morning surprise as the streaky Toms draws the long-knocking Wetterich, a Ryder Cup rookie who ranks among the top six on the PGA Tour in driving distance and birdies a round.

Against most teams, Toms and Wetterich would be the pick, but the two Spaniards feature the two best team-play records in the event (combined 23-5-6).

Prediction: Garcia/Olazabal win 1-up

3:45 a.m.Phil Mickelson/Chris DiMarco (USA) vs. Darren Clarke/Lee Westwood (EUR)

The anchor match features four players whose reputations exceed current form. The golf is likely to be a little ugly; Mickelson, DiMarco and Westwood all have looked dreadful in practice.

The difference could be the home crowd’s adulation for Clarke.

Prediction: Clarke/Westwood win 2 & 1

Score: Europe 3, United States 1

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