- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

RYDER CUP MATCHUPS

Pairings for the opening foursomes play at the 37th Ryder Cup, which begins Friday at Valhalla Golf Club (7,496 yards, par 71).

8:05 a.m.

Phil Mickelson/Anthony Kim (USA) vs. Padraig Harrington/Robert Karlsson (EUR)

Skinny: U.S. captain Paul Azinger’s marquee pairing of the world No. 2 and the 23-year-old prodigy faces two-time 2008 major champion Padraig Harrington and Karlsson, who won last week’s Mercedes-Benz Championship. Frankly, the United States must get a positive contribution from Mickelson this week after he slogged to a 1-7-1 record in the last two Ryder Cups. Azinger is banking on Kim’s electricity sparking Mickelson. Given Harrington’s pedestrian record in Ryder Cup play and modest recent form (7-8-2), the United States needs to swipe this point for early momentum.

Prediction: Mickelson/Kim 4 & 3

8:20 a.m.

Justin Leonard/Hunter Mahan (USA) vs. Henrik Stenson/Paul Casey (EUR)

Skinny: A study in contrasts: The United States sends out two steady grinders against streaky European bombers Stenson and Casey. If this were a four-ball match, the Europeans probably would win by a wide margin. The alternate-shot format should keep it close, but Stenson and Casey have too much power on a rough-free course that favors long hitters.

Prediction: Stenson/Casey 2 & 1

8:35 a.m.

Stewart Cink/Chad Campbell (USA) vs. Justin Rose/Ian Poulter (EUR)

Skinny: All the pressure in this match falls on the British pairing - and specifically on Nick Faldo’s controversial wild card pick, Ian Poulter. Of the four, only Rose comes to Valhalla in anything resembling top form. Expect both groups to struggle and the U.S. pair to battle from behind to scratch out a halve against the green, pressure-strapped Brits.

Prediction: Halve

8:50 a.m.

Kenny Perry/Jim Furyk (USA) vs. Lee Westwood/Sergio Garcia (EUR)

Skinny: The morning swing match features Europe’s strongest pairing against tough-minded U.S. veterans Furyk and Perry. If the United States hopes to upset Europe, the team will have to put a few cracks in Garcia’s aura of Ryder Cup invincibility. The Spaniard boasts a 13-1-2 record in the partner formats, but local fans will be out to cheer their native son. Perry spent all season pointing toward this event, so don’t be surprised if the raucous galleries propel him to heroics and the United States to the first mini-upset of the event.

Prediction: Perry/Furyk, 1-up

Predicted score after foursomes: USA 2.5, Europe 1.5

- Barker Davis

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