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Now speculation is around afternoon pairings

Now that the suspense of which golfers will be paired up in the Friday morning round of the Ryder Cup is over, another mystery cropped up. Who will play in the afternoon round?

The format calls for two-member teams of Americans to play against two-member teams of Europeans in each match. Each team uses one ball and its members take turns hitting it. There are four such matches.

The marquee match is Tiger Woods and Tom Lehman against Sergio Garcia and Jesper Parnevik.

In the afternoon, there also are four matches involving two-member teams, but all four golfers play their own ball on each hole. The team of the golfer with the best score wins the hole. Captains Ben Crenshaw of the United States and Mark James of Europe can wait until the morning matches have ended to turn in their afternoon pairings.

"If we do succeed in these morning pairings, you might see a lot of them in the afternoon, as well. But not per se," Crenshaw said.

James was more direct in deflecting the question of how he would set up his pairings.

"I don't think I should give any information about tomorrow afternoon's pairings," he said. "Sorry. You're trying to catch me in a weak moment while I was thinking of something else."

CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION: The customer pulled out his gold American Express Card. The register showed his purchase cost $436. He smiled as he signed the receipt.

Pretty steep for buying five items of souvenir clothing at the Ryder Cup merchandise tent? Not steep enough that it would keep him from waiting in line 20 minutes to get into the tent, then spending five minutes inching toward one of the 40 cash registers set up to accommodate the customers.

"It was worth it," his companion said of the wait.

While golfers were practising for Friday's opening matches, patrons crowded into the tent to take home a remembrance of their attendance at golf's prestigious event.

A Brookline police officer was asked if the number of people in the tent met the town's fire code.

"Probably not," he said.

QUIET, PLEASE: Silence plays a major role in golf. Spectators are expected to remain quiet while players hover over the ball, then hit it. In fact, fans attending the Ryder Cup are not allowed to carry cell phones and beepers.

But an unintended hush fell over Thursday's opening ceremony when the microphone of master of ceremonies Dan Hicks went on the blink.

A stagehand brought him another microphone. That didn't work. Neither did a second replacement.

While Hicks remained silent, conductor James Orent waved his baton and members of the Boston Pops Orchestra, slated to perform next, began playing. When they were finished, Hicks spoke into a microphone that actually worked. "You know it's not your day when the backup to the backup goes down," Hicks said.

WARM WEEKEND: Temperatures should be comfortable throughout the three days of competition. Wind, though, could play a role in the matches.

"It was a little more windy" during Thursday's practice, Tiger Woods said. "If the wind continues and if it persists the way it has been, the greens will start to pick up. The green speeds have been starting to get faster and faster as the week went along."

The forecast for Friday called for a breezy day with partly sunny skies and a high temperature of 78. On Saturday, early-morning clouds with the possibility of a shower should give way to sunny and windy conditions with a high of 74. Mostly sunny skies with a high of 70 to 76 were predicted for Sunday.

ALL BUSINESS: Funnyman Mark James wore the look of a European captain who is ready for matches to begin -- and ready for his team to start earning points.

While Crenshaw cracked jokes about the second alternate-shot match featuring Woods and Garcia, his counterpart was all business.

"We're concentrating on our side of the pairings and looking after our own games, sending our guys out to play as well as they can and not worrying too much about how the opposition are doing their pairings," he said.

Asked if he was surprised by any of Crenshaw's pairings, James flatly replied, "No."

Finally, one British reporter pointed out that The Country Club was buzzing over the prospect of Woods and Garcia in the same match, and did he not share any of that excitement?

"And don't say no," the reporter said.

James stared back and said with as much enthusiasm as a fence post, "Yes, I think it's extremely exciting."

Of course, James did not totally abandon his dry sense of humour. Asked how he informed Padraig Harrington that he, and not Jose Maria Olazabal, would be paired with Miguel Angel Jimenez, the captain shrugged. "I said, 'Padraig, you're playing tomorrow with Miguel."'

FIRST SHOT: Paul Lawrie, the unlikely British Open champion playing in his first Ryder Cup, will hit the first shot of the 33rd matches.

The visiting team traditionally has honours on the first tee, and Lawrie and Colin Montgomerie are in the first alternate-shot match.

"I'm sure it will be nerve-wracking," Lawrie said. "I know I'll be nervous, but I've dreamed of this for a long time and can't wait to get started."

Maybe he'll change his mind Friday morning. After all, Montgomerie had the honour of hitting the first shot at Oak Hill in 1995.

"That's as nervous as I want to be, thank you very much," he said. "I don't want to feel that bad ever again."

DIVOTS: At the opening ceremonies, Crenshaw introduced past captains Byron Nelson (1965), Dow Finsterwald (1977), Billy Casper (1979), Raymond Floyd (1989), Dave Stockton (1991) and Tom Kite (1997). Kite led the only losing team in that group. ... Europe assistant captain Sam Torrance minimised the inexperience of a team with seven Ryder Cup rookies among its 12 members: "They have played a lot of golf. They know what they're doing."


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