Faldo deals Cup shock
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.
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."
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."