Olazabal dispenses with Northern alliance
Golf:Jose Maria Olazabal today mixed things up for Europe’s final nine-hole practice session on the eve of the Ryder Cup in Chicago. World number one Rory McIlroy was no longer with regular partner Graeme McDowell, but with Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer instead as Europe’s captain rang the changes.
McDowell went out with Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari, while the first group was Lee Westwood, Paul Lawrie, Peter Hanson and Belgian newcomer Nicolas Colsaerts.
Europe’s defence of the trophy begins with foursomes tomorrow morning and it is widely expected McIlroy and McDowell will be back in harness and that Donald and Garcia — unbeaten in six games together in that format — will again be partners. Close friends Rose and Poulter played together in 2008, winning two of their three games, and practised together the first two days at Medinah.
If those three are fixed in Olazabal’s head then the biggest decision he has to take for the start of the match is who to put with Westwood, unbeaten in his last 10 foursomes going back to 1999. In that time Westwood has partnered Darren Clarke, Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Kaymer and Donald.
Of the remaining players Scot Paul Lawrie has the experience of playing an away match, but that was in 1999, while Hanson and Kaymer made their debuts last time. As the debutant big-hitting Colsaerts is expected to be given the chance to soak up the atmosphere in the foursomes before being introduced for the afternoon fourballs.
The foursomes pairings are announced at the opening ceremony later today. To give his side more rest Olazabal decided to limit yesterday’s practice to the front nine and the final tune-up to Medinah’s inward half.
"They saw the course on Tuesday, they saw every bit of it," Olazabal said yesterday. "Now it's just a matter of taking it a little bit easier because Friday, 36 holes. Saturday, 36 holes, a lot of pressure, a lot of tension. I want them just to take it a little bit easier than usually."