Forget sand wedges - US need tortilla chips

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The Independent Online

Some cruel observers might suggest that the American team has been carrying too much baggage for a while now, but as the Ryder Cup teams arrived here yesterday for the frenzied four-day build-up to Friday's grand tee-off, everybody was forced to agree. And that included their captain, Tom Lehman.

It was not Tiger Woods who was the problem, or any of the team who have lost four of the last five matches - but nachos. In a bizarre start to the week, Ian Woosnam was forced to hang about for three hours at Dublin Airport until he could perform the traditional host captain's welcome to their opponents.

The chartered jet was three hours late leaving Washington after the team had brought too much luggage for the plane. The problem? Too many clubs, too many balls, too much determination to avenge the humbling reversal in Detroit two years ago? "Tortillas," said Lehman, deadpan. These Americans always have a problem with the chips.

"We live in Arizona - the land of Mexican food," said Lehman, being typically American. "Over here it's difficult to find good chips and salsa. So we decided to bring our own. My wife ordered bags of corn tortillas, I packed them into my golf travel bag and, I swear to God, I couldn't even get if off the ground. It must have weighed 500lb." At least it distracted the visitors from the weather.

After a week of glorious sunshine, Co Kildare reverted to type right on cue with a rainstorm. The forecast for the rest of the week is not great either. Woosnam, however, is not relying on Mother Nature to assist him and is being rather more proactive in his leadership than most of the pre-match publicity would have it.

Last night, Woosnam showed his squad a motivational video which included an emotional reading of the Rudyard Kipling poem "If". Nobody here, of course, knows more painfully about those twin impostors than Darren Clarke and five days on from being asked at the Madrid Open to bare his grieving soul after the death of his wife, Heather, last month, he was asked to do so again.

As brave and forthcoming in dealing with this intrusion as he had been at his comeback tournament, Clarke confessed it will be a heart-fluttering moment when he steps on to the first tee on Friday morning, although he emphasised that it would have been anyway. "It's always a nervous few seconds, but on the golfing side of things, I don't think it will be any more so," he said. "And saying that I'm not even sure I'll be picked to play on Friday morning."

Indeed, after Woosnam's refusal yesterday to confirm that all 12 Europeans will take some part before Sunday's singles there is a degree of uncertainty running through the camp. "If someone doesn't play the first two days then that's because they were out of form or something," he said, while admitting he has still to decide on his pairings. "They're all grown men and we're here to win."

Meanwhile, Lehman appears to have made up his mind, adding more substance to the theory that in the captaincy stakes he is far better prepared. "Do I know my four pairings? I do," he said. "I've known them for the last couple of weeks." There is a heavy hint of what they will be - Woods and Jim Furyk seem a lock, as do Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco.

Some 50,000 are expected to witness the first day of official practice. After so much conjecture and controversy, Woosnam will be glad of something of consequence to focus on at last.