Potential U.S. pairings at Ryder Cup
NEWPORT, Wales – Corey Pavin hasn’t been forthcoming about his potential pairings for the Ryder Cup, and for good reason. There’s no reason to reveal secrets to the opponents. But Pavin’s practice-round pairings give us plenty of hints about who’ll be paired together once the competition begins.
The pairings over the past two days have been:
• Group 1: Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods.
• Group 2: Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Jeff Overton.
• Group 3: Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson.
• Group 1: Phil Mickelson, Jeff Overton, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson.
• Group 2: Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker.
• Group 3: Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Stewart Cink.
Several pairs remained constant over the two days, indicating that they will be paired together in competition. Here are those pairings:
• Zach Johnson-Hunter Mahan. They paired together in an alternate-shot match against Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink on Wednesday. Combining Mahan’s iron play with Johnson’s putting seems like a great idea. A similar combination worked well at Valhalla, as Mahan and Justin Leonard went 2-0-1.
• Steve Stricker-Tiger Woods. This pairing is a no-brainer after it went 4-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup. “It’s a pretty healthy combination,” Pavin said.
• Matt Kuchar-Stewart Cink. Their connection goes beyond a shared alma mater (Georgia Tech). These two would make for a good foursomes pairing because of their similar, steady styles.
• Dustin Johnson-Bubba Watson. Here’s one for lovers of the long ball. Conventional wisdom says two rookies shouldn’t be paired together in an overseas Ryder Cup, especially when one is as emotionally volatile as Watson. But Pavin may not be able to resist the temptation to let these two loose for four-balls.
• Phil Mickelson-A rookie: It seems that Mickelson’s role this week will be to lead the first-timers, like he did in 2008. Mickelson went 1-1-1 with Anthony Kim at Valhalla and teamed with Mahan to halve a four-ball match.
Mickelson was grouped with three rookies in the first two practice rounds.
Mickelson, Watson and Dustin Johnson were the only threesome to remain intact over the first two practice days. Fowler also played with Mickelson and Dustin Johnson both days, if you include their six-hole practice match after Wednesday’s nine-hole practice rounds.
Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are constant practice-round partners on the PGA Tour and have struck up a strong friendship. Both are Butch Harmon students, as well. Dustin Johnson and Fowler are good friends, and were teammates at the 2007 Walker Cup.
Other pairings we’ll have a good chance of seeing:
• Rickie Fowler-Jim Furyk: Pavin sent this pair out to play Woods and Stricker in alternate shot in Wednesday’s practice round. I’m guessing he wanted to test them. They’d be a good pair: the steady veteran with the aggressive rookie.
• Jeff Overton-Jim Furyk: Why would this work? See above. Overton and Furyk were paired with Cink-Kuchar on Tuesday.
• Stewart Cink-Zach Johnson: They were paired together in the 2006 Ryder Cup. Though they went 0-1, they seem like an ideal foursomes pairing.
• Tiger Woods-Jim Furyk: If the Woods-Stricker pairing hits some speed bumps, Furyk will be brought in to play with Woods. They played all four team sessions at the 2006 Ryder Cup, going 2-2-0.
One pairing I can guarantee you won’t see: Mickelson-Woods, which was a disaster in 2004 at Oakland Hills.
“Oh, yeah, I think there’s a great chance,” Mickelson said sarcastically. “Why don’t you just hold your breath and we’ll see Friday.”