Faldo pairings plan rumbled by long arm of the lens

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The Independent Online

Nick Faldo admitted here yesterday that he had been "caught out" and had "learnt a lesson" when photographers zoomed in on a piece of paper he was carrying on which he had written the European pairings. The captain claimed they were the partnerships that will go out in today's final practice round, although his erratic response to questioning convinced many that this was a more serious error.

It was a shambling performance by Faldo in the Valhalla media centre, in which he repeatedly tried to dodge the issue before owning up to his mistake, instead of turning it into positive and declaring that his team had nothing to fear from America knowing their running order. In truth, the "Captain Cock-up" headlines were inevitable as soon as the eagle-eyed snappers were allowed to train their lenses on the all-important initials in Faldo's handwriting.

He was on the course talking to players and holding the paper when he was alerted by his son Matthew. "Dad, they can see you," he said. When later asked to explain, Faldo said: "It just had the lunch list. It had sandwich requests for the guys, just making sure who wants the tuna, what wants the beef, who wants the ham."

When pressed on the matter, though, he contended, with tongue still firmly in cheek: "I haven't put numbers next to them yet, have I? We don't know what order they will go out, so some are safe."

The pairings were: LW-SG (Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia), PH-RK (Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson) and two groups of four that saw the expected partnership of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter put together with Graeme McDowell and Paul Casey and the rookies Oliver Wilson and Soren Hansen named alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez. Henrik Stenson's name was mysteriously missing from the list. "He was on the other side of the paper – Swedes do it the other way around," quipped Faldo.

It was another lame joke in a press conference full of them as Faldo struggled to keep his cool. He dismissed a few queries and when he was eventually pinned down to giving a straight answer he held up his hands. "OK, I've been caught," he said. "I've learned my lesson. You know my pairings. But they're only for tomorrow's practice round. We are going to play foursomes on the front nine."

Yet even if these are the foursomes pairings proper, the early revelation probably did not amount to much on the playing side (the Westwood-Garcia pairing has been successful in previous Ryder Cups, while Harrington and Karlsson are an obvious fit). But on the PR front Faldo's reaction was deeply embarrassing. The conference went out live across America and Faldo, who is regarded as one of the best TV analysts in the US, can only pray that the "Captain Cock-Up" moniker does not stick.

His tetchiness was in stark contrast to that of his counterpart Paul Azinger, who claimed to be stress-free and who has already pencilled in his pairings for the first morning. After once again sending out Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley with Kentuckians Kenny Perry and JB Holmes he said: "Yeah, there's a pattern developing. Common sense would tell you that. To tell you the truth I wrote down pairings before I even picked my four players. I already had an idea how I wanted to fill out my team."

The intrigue will finally end at lunchtime today when both captains have to hand in their foursomes line-ups.

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