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Woods & Garcia match up on first morning

The Ryder Cup captains unwittingly gave everyone the pairing they wanted to see -- Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia -- even though the two youngest and brightest stars in golf will have some company.

Woods will be paired with Tom Lehman and the 19-year-old Spanish sensation will be joined by Jesper Parnevik in the second of four alternate-shot matches that kick off the 33rd Ryder Cup on Friday morning at The Country Club.

The pairings were publicly announced during the opening ceremony Thursday afternoon, and drew the loudest cheer of all.

Woods, who held off Garcia by one stroke to win the PGA Championship, shrugged it off.

"It's not 1-on-1. It's alternate shot, and you only hit half the shots," he said.

The buzz that pairing will bring wasn't lost on Lehman or U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw.

"Even though it's a team format, Sergio and Tiger going at is a golf fan's dream," said Lehman, who was surprised to be paired with Woods since they had not played together all week.

The pairings process is a blind draw, with Crenshaw and Mark James separately submitting, in order, their four groups for each set of matches.

"Mark James and I met down by the skating pond on No. 3 and worked this out for you all," Crenshaw cracked. "The pairing came out and everybody just kind of shook their head a little bit. That adds so much excitement, obviously. It's something that people want to see."

That wasn't the only surprise.

Davis Love III thought he might be paired with Justin Leonard. Instead, Crenshaw benched Leonard for the morning matches and put Love with U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart.

Crenshaw said leaving Leonard out of the morning matches was simply a case of having too many players on top of their game.

"There's an impossibility to try to look at four names and say, 'Well, who am I going to leave out?' I've driven myself nuts," he said. "You've got to push the button somewhere. I mean, the whole lineup is playing well."

The biggest surprise for Europe was who won't be playing right away -- Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, the most experienced player for Europe who has never missed a Ryder Cup match.

Olazabal has been wild off the tee and is quick to degrade himself. After a 75 in the first round of the U.S. Open, he slammed his fist into a hotel wall and broke his hand. Since then, he has missed the cut three times and not finished better than 40th.

"He wasn't ready," assistant captain Sam Torrance said. "I think that's awesome he would do that. That's being honest."

Accuracy off the tee is crucial in alternate-shot matches, but Olazabal conceded even on Tuesday that the fairways of The Country Club are "not wide enough for me."

Miguel Angel Jimenez instead will be paired with Irishman Padraig Harrington, who made his first Ryder Cup team by finishing second in the final tournament to qualify. They will be in the third match against Love and Stewart.

James put Olazabal and Harrington together for a final practice round Thursday morning "so that Jose Maria could see that if he actually didn't play, someone who is playing very well was going to take his place."

James is leading off with his best player. Colin Montgomerie and British Open champion Paul Lawrie will play against Phil Mickelson and David Duval, the only Ryder Cup rookie for the United States.

The final match puts Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke, affectionately known as "The Spice Boys" in Europe for their love of fast cars and nightlife. They will be matched against two of the straightest players for the United States, Hal Sutton and Jeff Maggert.

The pairing with Woods and Garcia could really be a wash if one winds up hitting tee shots from the odd-numbered holes, and the other tees off on the even-numbered holes. And as much as Crenshaw was fascinated that the pairing worked out that way, he wasn't locked in on the two young stars.

"Tiger has a got a very solid horse right there with him," he said.

The United States is hoping to get off to a fast start, particularly since Europe has won or retained the Ryder Cup five of the past seven times.

"It's going to be an interesting start," Love said. "If we can get ahead, we can do real well. We just don't want to get behind. Hopefully, those first couple of matches we can get out there and get off to a good start."

Still, the first set of matches hardly determines the outcome. The last time Europe led after round one was in 1973.


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