Americans build siege mentality in Ryder team

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It would have been difficult for anyone's ears to have been burning here in the swirling rain yesterday as the American squad went through their unprecedented Ryder Cup "warm-up", but Luke Donald's must have been as red as the shirt he foolishly wore in his USPGA showdown with Tiger Woods recently.

If Tom Lehman is determined to do one thing with his team before the biennial tear-up begins at the K Club in four weeks time it is to make it a "team" - as he showed by shifting heaven, earth and that other immovable obstruction called the Tiger Woods schedule to get his full complement over the Atlantic for this two-day reconnaissance mission.

And if that involves creating a siege mentality over the perennial question over Woods's commitment... well so be it. Donald's assertion in the Sunday newspapers that "Tiger's motivation is not there when it comes to the Ryder Cup" might not have been the intended target of Lehman's latest attack against his No 1's critics, but that was inevitably the way it came out.

"People do not understand Tiger Woods," the captain said. "There is no-one in the golfing world, maybe even in the sporting world, more committed to winning than him - whatever the circumstances. People who question that just do not understand him at all."

Woods certainly looked motivated as he braved a downpour of Noah proportions to finish off the 18th, together with Jim Furyk and JJ Henry as Lehman interestingly put them out in three-balls. "It was fun," he said, his smile daring one to think otherwise. But then, Woods had triumphed the previous night in Ohio in a rain-sodden shoot-out over his team-mate Stewart Cink, and golf tends to be rather enjoyable when you have just won four on the bounce. "We're here to bond," he said, singing from the Americans' well- rehearsed hymn sheet.

So did they and will they carry on doing so before they return by their chartered jet tomorrow morning? From the moment they all boarded the squad bus from the Akron car park on Sunday evening, to the barbecue they were hell-bent on lighting last night it appeared so. And that was all that could be read into yesterday's practice except perhaps that Lehman's pairings went a long way to confirming that Phil Mickelson will play with Chris DiMarco, Woods with Furyk and the rest with each other.

Otherwise, rarely have a bunch of Americans looked so happy to see black clouds, but this was all about acclimatisation - to Ireland and to each other.

As for Paul McGinley, the picture is now clear what the local lad has to do in Munich this week to be among Ian Woosnam's automatics in Sunday's European team announcement.

Seven are already certain of their places - Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, David Howell, Henrik Stenson, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey - while Padraig Harrington needs a collection of results so freaky that even Camelot will not bother offering odds. In contrast, McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal will have to sweat over the finishing positions.

John Bickerton, Johan Edfors and Paul Broadhurst could throw the pair into the hat from which Woosnam will pick his two wildcards from - but as that already includes the names of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn and Ian Poulter - McGinley and Olazabal will be praying the unheralded trio do not have their week of their lives in Bavaria.

They will have to, mind, as Bickerton needs to win, Edfors at least come second and Broadhurst to finish in the first three if any are to have a chance. A wet K-Club is the lure. As is a motivated Tiger, it seems.