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Crenshaw planning Woods & Duval pairing ?

David Duval and Tiger Woods have spent a lot of time with each other this week at The Country Club -- in their press conference, but more significantly inside the ropes.

Woods and Duval have been in the same foursome for two straight days of practice for the Ryder Cup, and captain Ben Crenshaw has been toying with the idea of sending out the top two players in the world as a formidable team.

"It's certainly a possibility," he said. "I don't know that you're going to see that pairing in the first round. But it's very safe to say that both of them are going to play a lot."

Woods only smiled and said, "We'll see," when asked he might be paired with Duval.

One school of thought is that a Woods-Duval team might send a message that the United States wants to come out with both guns blazing. Then again, it could backfire, since there are no greater scalps than the top two players in the world.

European captain Mark James doesn't subscribe to either.

"If two of our guys beat them, that's a fantastic win," he said. "But I don't think it's going to be affecting the end result of the matches. If a pair wins or loses one match, I don't think it will reduce one team to tears."

The teams must submit pairings Thursday afternoon for the first round of alternate-shot matches. Crenshaw was still wrestling with possibilities, although Jeff Maggert and Hal Sutton have been together three times now -- including the practice session last month -- and Payne Stewart played an alternate-shot match with Davis Love III.

The European side appears much more clear. The most likely possibilities are Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik, and Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Both captains say their teams are playing well and that they are having a tough time figuring which four players to bench Friday morning.

ROOKIE RUMBLINGS: Having seven Ryder Cup rookies is no big deal to captain Mark James. One look at recent history is enough to suggest that Europe always has a rookie or two who rises to the occasion.

Two years ago, five rookies accounted for eight points in the victory at Valderrama. In 1995, David Gilford won a key singles match and Philip Walton won the decisive match.

"They want it badly," James said. "They want to do well, want to win points. They want to be the next Ryder Cup superstars. Motivation is not a problem. I've got to de-motivate them so their heads don't explode."

The lone American rookie is Duval, who happens to be a four-time winner this year and No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

"He a rookie in one sense, but I think it helps that he's played in Presidents Cups before," U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said. "I think he's got a game that would be extremely effective on this golf course -- pretty darn well on any course."

SUSPICIOUS SIGHTING: The bomb squad was called out when a blue knapsack was found unattended by the 16th tee. Brookline police chief Daniel O'Leary said the bag was examined by an explosive-sniffing dog and found to be innocuous.

The area around the tee was closed off 10-15 minutes, but most spectators and all of the golfers had no idea there was a potential problem.

"We have to be prepared for everything," O'Leary said. "This is a major event, and we've got a lot of contingency plans. We're looking for a happy, safe event."

PATE'S BACK: Steve Pate was asked today about his most anxious Ryder Cup moment. Davis Love III answered it for him.

"Wasn't that a limo crash?" he cracked.

Indeed, Pate played only one match in his only Ryder Cup, 1991 at Kiawah Island, when he was injured in an accident. He managed to play the first match, losing in best-ball with Corey Pavin, but had to withdraw from singles.

"I'm sure my most anxious moment is going to be the first tee shot I hit this week because that last time, I was not in the same frame of mind," he said. "I was wondering how long my body was going to hold up."

The good news, Love said, was he hasn't seen any limos this week.

"No, we've got buses," Pate said. "I can take the whole team down with me."

HE'S NO SERGIO: Colin Montgomerie's drive came to rest behind a tree on the 13th hole today during a best-ball practice session. He studied the shot and considered the options, as the gallery waited to see how he would escape such a mess.

Simple. With a swift swing of the leg, Montgomerie kicked his ball out of trouble and played his next one to the green, laughing all the way.

CAPTAIN STEWART: Payne Stewart always spends a week in Ireland to get ready for the British Open, and this year said he had become so popular in Waterville that he could run for mayor.

He'll have to settle for the next best thing.

Today, Stewart was named an honorary captain at Waterville Golf Club for 2000. It's the first time the club has bestowed such a title, and the first time a captain has come from the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"On each visit he has won the hearts of our small village," said Jay Connolly, managing director of the Waterville House and Golf Links. "This is the highest honour we can bestow to thank him for his friendship."

There was no mention whether the honour would be rescinded if Europe doesn't return home with the Ryder Cup.

DIVOTS: Mark O'Meara came up with the shot of the day today, holing an 8-iron from 142 yards for eagle on No. 8. "That was one of my few good shots," said O'Meara, who concedes that his confidence is not sky-high. ... While Boston Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe has been out to The Country Club this week, manager Jimmy Williams acted like he didn't know anything about the Ryder Cup. "I saw a couple of their trucks. They rent trucks, don't they?" he said. ... Samuel Ryder donated the gold chalice that bears his name in 1927, it was valued at about $400. Today it is worth $13,900.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The last hole ... well, when the French go down, they go down in flames." - Mark James, on Jean Van de Velde's play in the British Open.