Azinger considers teaming Kentuckians for first day of competition

Updated: September 16, 2008, 5:33 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The practice rounds in the days leading up to the Ryder Cup can sometimes be an indication of which way the captains are leaning when it comes to making their pairings for the foursomes and four-ball competitions that begin Friday morning.

But you didn't have to see Kentuckians Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes together in one group on Tuesday at Valhalla Golf Club to think that they could be one of Paul Azinger's teams.

The U.S. captain all but said so.

"Yeah, I've thought about what am I going to do with those two guys; should I put them together, should I keep them apart," Azinger said. "You know, I'd like to put them off first match out, to be honest with you, and get this crowd rocking."

That is not to say that Azinger will do so when it comes time to make his decision.

There is a bit of gamesmanship that goes on with the captains and their pairings strategy. The Friday morning foursomes pairings will not be announced until Thursday afternoon, with both captains putting their four twosomes in before seeing who they'll be matched up against.

Perry and Holmes are expected to be even bigger crowd favorites locally, and Azinger could opt to put them together for one rousing start to the competition or separate them to spread out the boisterous crowd.

"I know J.B. will be feeding off it big time," Azinger said. "That's his personality. He's a lot like me. I think J.B. will embrace that and feed off it. I think the trick will be to calm J.B. down. And I believe Kenny Perry will embrace it as well. ... I think the crowd will be energized as well. I see it only as a positive for both of them."

One problem with the first-off theory: The morning session is foursomes, or alternate shot, which is not believed to be Holmes' best format, given his lack of driving accuracy.

Holmes and Perry were in the same foursome with Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley. The other groups were Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson; and Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.

The European side elected to go off in threesomes: Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen; Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell; Paul Casey, Robert Karlsson and Ian Poulter; and Justin Rose, Oliver Wilson and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

"Today was day one as a practice day," European captain Nick Faldo said, "just get out there and play and get themselves acclimatized. I've personally always found four, when you're doing chipping and putting around the green, four is a crowd ... the guys were happy with that. We decided collectively that, 'let's go and have a look at the golf course, get the feel of things.' "

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com