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Faldo deals Cup shock

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Rob Hodgetts | 01:38 UK time, Saturday, 20 September 2008

Nick Faldo rocked the Ryder Cup with his decision to leave out Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia from Saturday morning's foursomes.

With Europe trailing by three points after a sensational opening day for the US, the omission of their top points-scorers from the last two events will leave the rest of the side with much work to do to get back into the match. And it will expose captain Faldo to further criticism.

The revelation came during Paul Azinger's end-of-day news conference, when the US skipper was handed the sheet which matched up his pairings with those of his opposite number.

Azinger turned to team member Hunter Mahan sat next to him and the pair mouthed simultaneous "wows".


The pairings had yet to be released at Faldo's own news conference shortly before, and the Englishman was in as relaxed, open and co-operative mood as he has been all week.

Despite the deficit, he remained upbeat and said he was proud of his side.

"We're down on points but up on spirit," he said. "Tomorrow is a different day."

It wasn't Faldo's fault that some of his players failed to fire, but the gritty Westwood took his unbeaten run to 12 Ryder Cup matches stretching back to the Sunday singles in 2002.

With Garcia, he salvaged a half with Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk in the morning fourballs and he scraped another crucial half with Soren Hansen in the afternoon against JB Holmes and Boo Weekley.

But Westwood's omission means it will be the first session he has missed since making his Ryder Cup debut in 1997.

The ebullient Garcia is Europe's heart and soul and the new talisman in place of Colin Montgomerie. But he, too, will twiddle his thumbs on Saturday morning after a fourball loss in the company of countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez.

It's a hard job as captain rotating all your players, and Faldo needed to blood Oliver Wilson, but questions will be asked over his choice of players to leave out.

The late news meant plenty of journalists faced a rewrite of their planned pieces. I was putting to bed a blog on Phil Mickelson rediscovering his Ryder Cup mojo but decided I couldn't ignore the turn of events.

mickelsonkim438.jpg

But Mickelson did face huge pressure to assume the role of US team anchorman in the absence of the injured Tiger Woods, and he led the line in magnificent fashion to put the United States in pole position..

The world number two, like Woods often accused of not caring about the event, took one-and-a-half points off Europe's back-to-back major winner Padraig Harrington to set the tone for the Americans.

People pondered whether Woods's aura caused some of the US team, Mickelson included, to play within themselves in recent Ryder Cups, and it's impossible to prove one way or the other

The only thing that can be said fairly definitely is that the experiment to pair him alongside his nemesis Woods at Oakland Hills in 2004 failed miserably.

But Mickelson's record in six Ryder Cups before this one reads won nine, lost 12, halved four - hardly the stuff of legend for a player of his status.

On Friday, though, the 38-year-old clicked magnificently with exciting 23-year-old Anthony Kim, the man he implored Azinger to pair him with.

The duo, full of banter and high fives, scrapped back from three down after 12 in the opening foursomes match to grab a half against Harrington and Robert Karlsson. And they then came back from three down to beat Harrington and Graeme McDowell by two holes in the fourballs.

"I love playing with this guy right here," Mickelson said of Kim. "Anthony has got this youthfulness and exuberance. It's infectious. We had a lot of fun."

mahanleonard438.jpg

The feisty pairing of Justin Leonard and rookie Mahan may have been unbeatable for the Americans, and Boo Weekley may have become the crowd's favourite, but the snuffing out of Harrington laid the foundations for America's first opening-session lead since 1995.

Kim, who will again play with Mickelson against Henrik Stenson and Valhalla debutant Wilson in Saturday's foursomes, said of their partnership: "I think we are going to be pretty tough to beat."

But though Azinger will be jumping for joy in private, he is canny enough to say in public that there is a long way to go.

His side went behind first in six of Friday's eight matches before turning things around and he knows that the Europeans are equally adept at doing the same.

"What's on paper doesn't mean a thing," he said. "We've got to go out and play good golf."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Thats a weird one by Faldo. As you say, Westwood and Garcia are the heart and soul of the team-In fact I would have put out our strongest possible foursome combos this morning-Maybe Westwood with Harrington and Garcia with Jiminez...(Jiminez is a good straight reliable driver of the ball which is what you need in foursomes). Poulter and Rose I would have kept together as Faldo has and I would have put the two sedes out together last. Let Wilson play in the Fourballs this afternnon. Europe need no worse than a 2 and 1/2 1 and 1/2 victory this morning..

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm sure the key difference this time is no Tiger. The US team are far more relaxed without the deity there and it's feeding through to their play on the course. Also the obvious tension between Harrington and Garcia on the European side is not helping.

    I agree with Faldo leaving out Garcia and Westwood this morning. Neither are playing that great and they might come back stronger for the afternoon matches.

    I'll stick with my original prediction of a USA win by 16 to 12. Not over yet though, by any means.

    Great RC so far!

  • Comment number 3.

    hmmm. what is faldo up to?
    anyway, time will tell, but europe need a good day today. I can't wait!
    "E-U!, E-U!, E-U!" (or maybe not!)

  • Comment number 4.

    This is a massive call by Faldo. I don't think Garcia was at his best yesterday but his record is extremely good.

    Maybe this speaks more about Faldo's ego wanting the headlines.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am pleased you tried to comment on the golf in this blog rather than other unrelated and uninteresting stuff.

    However, I wish you would actually express some opinions in your blog. This reads more like a description of events, that a ten year old could come up with. I am sorry to be so critical, but I am just desperate for an insightful blog to appear on the BBC Sport section.

    Please offer us some more of your opinions and views that you have the pleasure of being able to build up by being out there amongst the action in the USA. At the moment it just feels like you are relaying information.

  • Comment number 6.

    Can't understand Faldo leaving out Garcia and Westwood. Both of them are tremendous drivers. This is much more crucial in Foursomes than Fourballs. If Nick thinks five matches is too much for Westwood then he could have rested him this afternoon. Garcia is still a kid and can play five in a row - no problem.
    Faldo will be proven to be a master tactician or a complete idiot by 6pm!

  • Comment number 7.

    What an IDIOT, i can't see him pulling this one off

  • Comment number 8.

    It do or die time for Faldo after those picks.
    Master or Flop? We will find out soon.

  • Comment number 9.

    Faldo is taking a gamble but he probably feels he has to do something considering the position Europe are in.

    If he wins the morning foursomes then it will be considered a master stroke by Faldo. Then his big guns (Garcia, Westwood, Casey) can come out in the afternoon after a rest.

    I have a feeling though Faldo wants to make an impact as a captain. Not letting history getting into the decison making but him making choices that will define his captaincy.

    This will be his undoing, he made his bed with his wild card selections and he will do the same with his pairings.

    I don't think Europe have played that bad, I just think the US team have played better.

    I hope it will be all square today at 8-8. Then that will make for probably the best last day ever.

  • Comment number 10.

    We (EU) need to be in front by the end of today...tall order to win after 1st day score. Don't think Faldo is a born leader....hope i am wrong.

  • Comment number 11.

    The ghost of the 87 Open at Muirfield hangs heavy over this Ryder Cup, Azinger is so driven to exorcise his defeat by Faldo, it acts as a 14th man in his team's makeup, with the Kentucky crowd being the 13th.
    Faldo appears incapable of leading a team; he is after all the most self absorbed golfer since Ben Hogan. He picked two men in Poulter and Casey whom he considered in his own mien, but neither as golfers get anywhere near his steely ability. Faldo would never have let that foursomes match yesterday slip away in the manner that Poulter and Rose did,while Casey looked completely at sea .
    Monty and Clarke always looked better 'wild card ' selections .The sound of chickens coming home to roost are to ring around the course.
    Garcia will feel he gave everything yesterday and now finds himself sidelined unfrirly for his efforts. He above the rest has the charisma to get this team going, when things get tough as they are now ; he won't understand it and unless Westwood is unwell as reports hint at, his omission this morning is completely baffling given his record,
    Foursomes is a hard format in which to find immediate comfort so it is big ask for Wilson to enter the fray at this point. And an unnecessary risk.
    With Mickleson finally showing his true class, and Leonard playing his best golf for years, the Americans now sense the tide is turning. The Americans should win 3-1 this morning and the Ryder Cup for Europe barring a miracle will be lost.

  • Comment number 12.

    Faldo has botched it. Like a gambler chucking in more chips as the cards turn against him. He always was the loner, look-at-me type and despite years of fostering and promoting the jovial side of his character, he remains self-centred (just look at his ramblings at the opening ceremony). Pride before a fall.

  • Comment number 13.

    apparently, garcia needed a rest and westwood was suffering (from blisters).
    however, there are no weak links in the european team and today is the day to show the americans how to win - with style!

  • Comment number 14.

    Nick Faldo hadn't commented to the wider press late last night but he did eventually talk about his decision:

    "Sergio was tired. He was on antibiotics last week.

    "Lee has whopping great blisters on his feet from his new shoes

    "This week is a gruelling week on the body. Sergio wanted to be rested. Lee definitely didn't but I wanted him to be.

    "We still have 20 points to play for.

    "It will be good to get Ollie out and Henrik will look after him. Foursomes is the consistent one and that's Ollie's forte."

    Swarvsta - It's good to vary things and rather than offer opinions all week I felt it was time for a more featurey blog.

    For what it's worth, I think leaving them both out was a big mistake. Europe need points and fast. Bernard Gallacher has just told the 5 Live team that he thinks the Ryder Cup could be over today.

    I'm not sure I agree with that but I would have certainly patched up Westwood and Garcia and shoved them back out together to get this thing back on the rails.

    I agree Oliver Wilson needed to play but there are other options for fitting in Westwood and Garcia. Other than that, I personally think Faldo's been OK so far.

  • Comment number 15.

    There could be a multitude of reasons of why two of the most senior players on the European are sitting...... but I think Faldo had best look up his sleeve.... and pray something extraordinary is there (outside of Racquel's hair!) !

  • Comment number 16.

    Nick Faldo has a wierd sense of humour. What he tells the Press I would take with a barrel of salt

  • Comment number 17.

    Captain Faldown strikes yet again.

  • Comment number 18.

    Can you really see Garcia wanting to be rested after day 1?

    I bet they've had to strap him down this morning!

  • Comment number 19.

    I THOUGHT AT THE BEGINING FALDO HAD EVERY REASON TO MISS THEM OUT AS THEY HAD NOT PLAYED GOOD AND NEEDED A REST AFTER PLAYING TWO ROUNDS BUT THEY WERE BOTH BROUGHT BACK AS THEY ARE BOTH VERY EXPERIENCED PLAYERS
    FROM DJCATTIE

  • Comment number 20.

    I bet some people here feel a bit stupid now.....

    Faldo proved right.

  • Comment number 21.

    I'll say this, Bernard Gallacher is rapidly turning into Private Frazer from Dad's Army.

    "We're dooooomed!"

 

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