For the U.S., Friday's pairings are coming into focus
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In his lunchtime press conference Wednesday, Paul Azinger said, "I think today is the day I'm getting players to think about the course, maybe some strategy about how we want to approach pairings, that sort of thing."
With the same three groups of four playing together on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the American pairings appear to be taking shape.
Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson walked down several fairways together while playing with Hunter Mahan and Justin Leonard.
Azinger said that he wanted all his players to hit from every tee box, but then to select one area for hitting second shots. So, on the 601-yard, par-5 seventh hole, Mickelson and Kim played several approach shots to the green from the area where Kim's drive stopped. (Click on the photo for a look at Kim and Mickelson talking strategy.) Meanwhile, Leonard and Mahan played from the spot where Mahan's ball stopped, and then walked to the greenside rough, where Leonard's approach shot landed.
As Mickelson's putt from the collection area behind the green rolled toward the hole on the seventh, Kim raised his arms and yelled as the ball dropped in for an eagle. The two exchanged high-fives as the crowd exploded with applause. Not to be outdone, Kim nearly holed his putt from the same spot moments later. Then, after dropping another ball, Kim nearly holed a shot using a hybrid club.
On the ninth hole, Kim squatted like a catcher to read the green from behind Mickelson's 10-footer, and the two talked before Mickelson knocked in his putt.
In the second group, Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell played alongside Ryder Cup rookies Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis. Azinger hinted on Tuesday that he would put Cink with a rookie on Friday, but don’t be surprised if Curtis, 31, is paired with the veteran while Stricker, 41, could be teamed with Campbell.
In the final group, Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes were cheered on tee boxes and greens as they played with Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley. Azinger has already said that he would like to put Perry and Holmes together Friday morning. Furyk and Weekley play a similar style of game and would seem to be a logical pairing as well.
"I think my dilemma is to figure out who I'm going to leave out the first morning," Azinger said. "That's really the problem I'm having at this point." (The team has 12 players, but only eight will play Friday's foursomes.) (Photo by Fred Vuich/SI)