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Some pairings we'd really like to see !

Apart from deciding what colour shirt to wear on what day, the two most important functions of a Ryder Cup captain are to complete 12-man teams with two captain's picks and come up with a winning combination.

For Ben Crenshaw and Mark James, their jobs are half done.

James must figure out whom to pair on a European team that features three Spaniards, two Swedes and a Frenchman. Crenshaw has the top two players in the world at his disposal. Does he dare put Tiger Woods and David Duval together?

``It's one of the toughest jobs as captain,'' Crenshaw said. ``My biggest thing right now is the pairings. I'm thinking all the while about putting players together.''

Crenshaw and James could always consider what Jack Nicklaus did for a practice round in the Presidents Cup -- throw four balls in the air, the two that landed closest to each other were a team.

Or they could take the following suggestions to really liven up the Ryder Cup:

Paul Lawrie and Jean Van de Velde

This would be a great alternate-shot pairing, the silly Frenchman who squandered the British Open, and the unassuming Scot who benefited from the Van de Velde's follies.

Jarmo Sandelin and Lee Westwood

If there is any contention on the European team, this is it. In the Lancome Trophy last year, Westwood refused to sign Sandelin's card because he thought the Swede's ball moved at address. Sandelin says it didn't and prevailed. What better way for them to kiss and make up than for James to have them spend three hours together on the golf course?

Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez

Two Spanish rookies separated at birth by a mere 16 years. After they win, Jimenez can help the 19-year-old Garcia with his homework.

Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington

Clarke is a Protestant from Northern Ireland. Harrington is a Catholic from the Republic of Ireland. Maybe this could bring peace to the Emerald Isle for a day or two.

Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods

Woods went through a celebrated break-up with caddie Mike ``Fluff'' Cowan. Now that Fluff is with Furyk, he could romp the fairways with Tiger again. A U.S. victory means Fluff gets to do another commercial.

Payne Stewart and David Duval

One is the most passionate American when it comes to the Ryder Cup. The other referred to it as an exhibition.

Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson

Leonard still hasn't forgotten the time a pro-Mickelson gallery cheered his bad shots during a playoff loss to Mickelson in Phoenix. That won't be a problem if they're on the same team.

Sadly, the singles matches on Sunday are a blind draw. Perhaps fate can intervene and serve up these delightful pairings:

Jose Maria Olazabal vs. Steve Pate

The two most injury-prone players in Boston, this match will be recorded as halve by default. Pate got hurt in a car accident during the '91 Ryder Cup and once hit a deer while riding a bike. Olazabal recovered from foot problems to win the Masters -- and then break his hand hitting a hotel wall at the U.S. Open.

Stewart vs. Westwood or Clarke

Stewart stirred the pot by saying, ``On paper, they should be caddying for us.'' During the PGA Championship, Westwood jokingly retrieved Stewart's balls on the putting green, and Clarke carried his bag down the first fairway in a practice round.

Colin Montgomerie vs. Duval

A perfect pair. Both are considered the best players on each side of the Atlantic who have never won a major, both are refreshingly honest and constantly misunderstood. Duval gets ripped for his position on Ryder Cup money. Monty gets ripped because he's Monty.

Tom Lehman vs. Any Spaniard

In both his previous Ryder Cup singles, Lehman has defeated Seve Ballesteros and Ignacio Garrido. Neither match got past the 15th hole.

Sandelin vs. Mark O'Meara

Sandelin belatedly accused O'Meara of cheating in the '97 Lancome Trophy by replacing his ball a quarter-inch closer to the hole. O'Meara won by a stroke over Sandelin, who demanded eight months later that he renounce his title. He referred to O'Meara as ``Mark-it-nearer.''

Sandelin vs. Mickelson

They exchanged heated words in the 1996 Dunhill Cup, where the Swede would ``shoot'' the hole with his club when he made a putt. After Mickelson was gunned down on one hole, he got in Sandelin's face and asked for some respect. What Mickelson would really like is a rematch.


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