Ryder Cup 2012: Jose Maria Olazabal gives first pairing clues
By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at the Medinah Country Club
Venue: Medinah, Chicago
Date: 28-30 September
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live; daily text commentaries on BBC Sport website. Extended highlights daily on BBC Two.
The first significant clues to Europe's opening Ryder Cup pairings emerged amid Tuesday's first practice round at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.
Captain Jose-Maria Olazabal teamed Luke Donald and Lee Westwood against Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in group one.
Northern Irish pair Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell played Paul Lawrie and Sergio Garcia in the second match.
"You can pretty much predict our first eight players on Friday morning," said McDowell in his news conference.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how the next three days pan out in practice, but I can tell you that the first four guys are Poulter, Rose, Westwood and Donald, and myself and Rory are in the second group with Lawrie and Garcia. So there's your eight, the first two groups, fairly predictable."
After coming off the course, Westwood revealed he and Donald shot a better-ball 59 - 13 under par - to give Rose and Poulter a "proper drubbing". McIlroy and McDowell also beat Lawrie and Garcia in their practice match.
"Sergio and I got whipped pretty bad," said Lawrie. "We lost a bit of cash today, which was not good. But it was nice to see the course."
In the third European group, Germany's former world number one Martin Kaymer and Belgian rookie Nicolas Colsaerts lost to Swede Peter Hanson and Italy's Franceso Molinari.
Olazabal, however, tried to play down the significance of his initial groups.
"I'm not going to talk about pairings, seriously," said the Spaniard, who had the golf bags of all 12 of Europe's players emblazoned with an image of the late Seve Ballesteros.
Ryder Cup explained
Matchplay scoring is used. Each hole is played in isolation, with the player or pair taking fewest shots winning that hole
Foursomes will be played on the Friday and Saturday mornings. Here, the players take alternate shots with just the one ball per pair
Fourballs will be played on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Teams send out pairs of players out against each other. There are four balls in play at once - one for each player - with the lowest score winning the hole
On Sunday, 12 singles matches are played, with players head-to-head in solo contests
One point is awarded for a match victory and half-a-point for a tie with a total of 28 available
"We have quite a lot of players that have done well in the past and then I've tried to mix a little bit of guys I believe can complement each other and who understand each other really well.
"That's why I put Paul Lawrie with the Northern Irish guys and Sergio because Sergio is a guy that gets close to everyone. He can play with anyone."
On Kaymer, Colsaerts, Hanson and Molinari, he added: "That's where we do have four different nationalities, young guys and we are trying to just figure out certain things still."
The US team also practised in three groups of four with Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson going off first.
They were followed by Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson with the fourball of Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker bringing up the rear.
The 39th Ryder Cup opens with four alternate-shot foursomes matches on Friday morning, followed by four fourballs in the afternoon.
Donald and Garcia have won all four foursomes they have played together in previous Ryder Cups, but two years ago at Celtic Manor the Donald-Westwood partnership thrashed Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker 6&5 in foursomes to set the tone for the
European win that followed.
McDowell, the man who scored the winning point last time out, clinched one-and-a-half points from a possible three with current world number one McIlroy in Wales, while Poulter and Rose won two-and-a-half points from their three matches at Valhalla four years ago.
McDowell admitted afterwards that the unique pressures of the competition were already being felt in the visitors' camp.
"I went to bed last night and I could barely sleep," he said. "These are perhaps the best two teams that have ever been assembled at the Ryder Cup. It's going to be a big week and a titanic struggle.
"The big thing I've learned from the last couple of Ryder Cups is that being nervous and anxious is not really worth it.
"When the gun goes off on Friday you've just got to go out there and play aggressively, because if you don't shoot seven under or eight under you're going to lose.
"There's no room for anxiety about bad shots because bogeys and doubles are not going to matter this week. It's going to be the quality of your good shots that matters, holed putts and chip ins.
Love prepares for 'fiery' Ryder Cup
"Leave the nerves on the first tee, get charged up, enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the adrenaline that's going to course through your veins."
McDowell dismissed suggestions that the European players would struggle with the partisan, passionate galleries expected around the course this week.
"I think the crowds like the European golfers. They have embraced them as PGA players and I think the days of hostility are gone," he said.
Seven of Europe's team have the experience of playing in a Ryder Cup match away from home, and with only one debutant in the ranks - Colsaerts - that familiarity could prove critical in the days to follow.
"Putts that drop in front of your home fans are like a bomb going off and putts that go in this weekend will be like someone's got the silencer on," said McDowell.
"I remember Valhalla. The 14th was a very big natural amphitheatre and one of the most intimidating holes as a European. You knew when somebody birdied. You could hear it reverberating around the course.
"It's going to come down to the putting. You've got 24 great players and I don't see any real stand-out advantage for either team, so it's going to boil down to who holes the most putts."
Friday, 28 September (all times BST)
23:59-02:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day One
Saturday 29 September
11:00-13:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day One highlights
23:59-02:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day Two
Sunday 30 September
14:00-16:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day Two highlights
23:00-01:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day Three
Monday 1 October
19:00-20:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day Three highlights
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