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Ryder Cup Day 1.

The pairings for Friday's morning matches are set for the 2006 Ryder Cup and, as expected, it’s going to be critical for the U.S. superstars to play well if the Americans have any hope of getting off to a good start.

Here’s the lineup for Friday morning’s four-ball matches, a best-ball game where each team takes the lowest of its two scores on each hole:

MATCH 1: Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk (U.S) vs. Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie (Europe).

MATCH 2: Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry (U.S.) vs. Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson, (Europe).

MATCH 3: David Toms and Brett Wetterich (U.S.) vs. Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia (Europe).

MATCH 4: Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, (U.S.) vs. Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, Europe.

I really don’t like the U.S. matchups in the second and third matches, and I’d think Europe is the heavy favorite in both of those matches. U.S. captain Tom Lehman chose to throw two of his rookies right in the fire, and I’m not expecting much from them this week. Cink and Toms are veterans, but neither is playing off-the-charts great coming into this event. Casey just won the HSBC Match Play last week and is on a roll, and Garcia, who will pair well with Olazabal, was 4-0-1 in the 2004 Ryder Cup and loves this format. I’ll be shocked if Europe doesn’t get two points there (Garcia is the WagerWeb.com favorite at +550 to score the most points overall for Europe).

That’s why it’s critical for Woods and Furyk to play well and get a point right out of the box. Harrington and Montgomerie will be formidable, but Woods and Furyk are 1-2 in the world for a reason. With all the rain that’s been pouring down, the key to this match will be if Woods can get his speed down on the greens. He and Furyk are both feel putters, and if they can get things figured out quickly, they should make a lot of birdies. This is the best match for a U.S. point.

The final match will be interesting and probably worth staying away from in a betting standpoint because of all the unknowns. Mickelson hasn’t been right since the collapse at Winged Foot, and I have no idea what to expect from him this week. Frankly, DiMarco might be the better player coming in. Clarke hasn’t played much this year as he tended to his wife, Heather, who died of cancer last month. This will be an emotional day for him, and I’m not sure whether that will be good or bad. Of the unknowns, who knows? Of the knowns, I like DiMarco better than Westwood.

I’d expect a 2-2 finish after the morning sessions. The foursomes in the afternoon will be where things turn. That’s typically been a European stronghold; Europe is a -130 favorite at WagerWeb.com to be leading after the first day.

WagerWeb Golf
 
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