Mickelson rests as his team-mates go with tried and tested routine - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Mickelson rests as his team-mates go with tried and tested routine

Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion, sat out the second practice day for the 35th Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills yesterday. The American left-hander did seven and a half hours' practice on Monday, studying the course and all the different pin positions as he has in the week before all four of this season's major championships.

Phil Mickelson, the Masters champion, sat out the second practice day for the 35th Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills yesterday. The American left-hander did seven and a half hours' practice on Monday, studying the course and all the different pin positions as he has in the week before all four of this season's major championships.

While Tiger Woods and Mark Calcavecchia were criticised at The Belfry two years ago for practising one morning at 6.30am - before the spectators arrived but in keeping with Tiger's usual routine - Mickelson's decision was the greatest expression yet of the US captain Hal Sutton's insistence that his players prepare as they would any other week of the year.

"Phil came to me this morning and said he does not usually play on the Wednesday of majors and this was a major and he wasn't going to play," Sutton said. "I told him that he shouldn't change his routine."

Sutton added: "If anyone else wants a pass tomorrow, they'll get one. I've told my players to worry about themselves. If I can get the best out of each of them, then it could come together as a team effort that could be brilliant."

American teams have sometimes struggled in the fourballs and foursomes but Sutton has completely ignored the traditional preparation for team competition of trying out different combinations in practice. Apart from Mickelson sitting out, Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco played together simply because they were ready, followed by a threeball and a fiveball.

Sutton will not tell his players his pairings until this morning, leaving them little time to get used to the idea - if he is planning to put together Woods and Mickelson in the opening fourballs that might be part of his thinking - or to decide which ball to use in the foursomes.

"I know some of the team are slightly apprehensive about things like that but we'll see how this works out," Sutton said. "I know exactly what my pairings are and it is extremely important to get off to a great start. I don't want to be behind the eight ball."

By contrast, there did seem to be clues about Bernhard Langer's intentions, with four possible fourball pairings in Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez; Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie; Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia; and Luke Donald and Paul Casey.

Later in the round, they switched to playing foursomes with Clarke playing with Westwood; Jimenez and Thomas Levet; Garcia and Donald; and Harrington and Paul McGinley among the regroupings.

"They are not necessarily going to go out like this on Friday," Langer said. "I don't know myself yet but obviously there was thought that went into it and I will keep watching out everyone is playing in practice."

One of the idiosyncrasies of Oakland Hills is that the four par-threes are on odd-numbered holes and the four par-fives are on even-numbered holes. This means that if everything goes according to play, one player will be putting first on 12 of the greens and the other only on six. It also indicates that a stronger driver will tee off on the evens and the better iron player on the odds.

But it was the greens that the Europeans were paying attention to. "You don't see many courses with greens like these," Langer said. "They are very severe in their slopes. The only place that comes to mind is Augusta."

Perhaps the Europeans' past success at the Masters will be a good omen.

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