Commentary

Analyzing Friday's four-ball matches

Originally Published: October 9, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- There is a major difference in putting together pairings for the two Presidents Cup team formats.

In foursomes -- or alternate shot -- a captain will try to pair like-minded players so neither is forced to play shots from out of his comfort zone. In four-ball -- or best-ball -- it's essential to team players with opposite styles; ideally, a captain would like to have a steady, fairways-and-greens type of performer with a birdie-buster who can take dead aim at the flagsticks.

In setting their lineups for Friday's four-ball matches, U.S. captain Fred Couples and International team skipper Greg Norman took these guidelines to heart, pairing dissimilar styles of players whenever possible.

How will the strategy play out? Let's break down each of the six matches:

International team flagInternational Team:
Retief Goosen, Adam Scott
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard
Match preview: With partner Anthony Kim unable to hole a putt for most of Thursday's foursomes match, Mickelson placed his young partner on his back and carried him to a 3 and 2 victory. Based on where Leonard's head might be after missing a 3-foot putt to win his match on the 18th green, you have to wonder whether Lefty again will need to carry his teammate.

Goosen and Scott, meanwhile, own a terrific record as partners, at 3-0-2 overall and 2-0-1 in the four-ball format. Scott earned a ton of confidence in his opening day win; expect it to carry over to this match.

Advantage: International
Match status: Begins at 1:55 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Ernie Els, Mike Weir
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim
Match preview: This U.S. pairing is a classic example of opposite-minded players, with AK acting as the guy with the green light and Furyk the steady par machine who can roll in a few, too. They have a tough draw in Els and Weir, however, a pair that played together in both four-ball sessions two years ago at Royal Montreal, winning each without having to play the final hole.

Experience matters in this format, and knowing their partner's game might just give the International duo a slight edge in this one.

Advantage: International
Match status: Begins at 2:07 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Ryo Ishikawa, Y.E. Yang
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Kenny Perry, Sean O'Hair
Match preview: Playing in his first international team competition, rookie O'Hair never seemed comfortable with his game in an opening foursomes loss. Perhaps his misery would love some company, as this match features three of the five first-timers competing in the Presidents Cup.

Neither Ishikawa nor Yang appeared very solid in his first appearance Thursday, either. That leaves old man Perry, who has been known to make birdies in bunches and should be the man to watch in this one.

Advantage: U.S.
Match status: Begins at 2:19 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Vijay Singh, Tim Clark
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink
Match preview: Each of these duos has been paired once before in this format; the U.S. players lost their match, the International guys halved theirs. Cink and Glover are one of only two teams to reconnect after playing together on Day 1 -- and the only one to come back after a loss.

Neither played poorly, though, in losing to Singh, who might have benefited more from the play of partner Robert Allenby than his own. This is another one that should be very close, but give the edge to the Americans, who know a thing or two about holing pressure putts.

Advantage: U.S.
Match status: Begins at 2:31 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Robert Allenby, Camilo Villegas
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan
Match preview: There is no more perfect format for Villegas than four-ball. In regular stroke-play competition, he often reels off red numbers at will only to be hamstrung by one or two big numbers in a round. Such exploits make him one of the world's most exciting players, but they have held him back from greater accomplishments.

In this format, however, those poor holes won't hurt nearly as much -- and maybe not at all -- and the birdies will be huge. Expect him to win a bunch of holes Friday.

Advantage: International
Match status: Begins at 2:43 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

International team flagInternational Team:
Geoff Ogilvy, Angel Cabrera
U.S. flagU.S. Team:
Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker
Match preview: The U.S. twosome was absolutely on fire in foursomes, playing their 14 holes in 6 under par. Don't be surprised to see these guys together for two more matches Saturday -- no matter what happens in this one.

Curiously, Woods owns only a 3-7-0 career Presidents Cup record in this format (and 4-6-0 in the Ryder Cup), which ought to suit his game. Cabrera and Ogilvy are players who can get hot in a hurry and make birdies in bunches, but they're running into two of the world's hottest players in this one.

Advantage: U.S.
Match status: Begins at 2:55 p.m. ET
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 T
Int'l
U.S.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.