News & ToursSeptember 30, 2010

Breaking down Friday's four-ball pairings

NEWPORT, Wales -- A look at the four-ball pairings for Friday morning's opening session (all times are local):

__Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson (USA) vs. Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer (Europe), 7:45 a.m.

__Mickelson draws the task of breaking in another rookie like he did in 2008 with Anthony Kim. The long-hitting Johnson had to go out with orders to simply pound the ball given the cold, wet conditions that will prevail for the scheduled opening match at 7:45 a.m. Kaymer, the PGA champion, might be the rock of the group even though he is a rookie given Westwood's inactivity since August to rehabilitate a calf injury. America's flash might have the edge here.

Prediction: USA 1 up

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Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (Europe), 8 a.m.

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U.S. captain Corey Pavin might have forgotten Cink in the introductions at the opening ceremonies, but he wasn't going to leave him out of the morning lineup after making him a captain's pick for the primary purpose of shepherding fellow Georgian Kuchar through team play. The McIlroy-McDowell duo was the most anticipated pairing of the week and the two Irishmen figure to be formidable and perhaps the most close-knit team for either side. But will they make enough birdies? Probably.

Prediction: Europe 2 and 1__

Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods (USA) vs. Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher (Europe), 8:15 a.m.

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The pairing of Woods and Stricker was a no-brainer given the success they enjoyed together going 4-0 in last year's Presidents Cup. If you don't need reminding, a lot has happened since then. Meanwhile, Poulter was a rock for Europe in 2008 at Valhalla, and might be brash enough to not be fazed by Woods.__

Prediction: Halved ____

Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton (USA) vs. Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington (Europe), 8:30 a.m.

__More notable than Corey Pavin throwing two rookies into the mix right out of the gate is he did it at the expense of Jim Furyk, who is arguably the hottest player in the world. Harrington might be still looking for his old form, but he's got plenty of positive Ryder Cup experience to draw upon, and he's got a solid partner in Donald. This could be the first waxing of the week.

__Prediction:__Europe 4 and 3

-- *Dave Shedloski and Sam Weinman

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