No surprises with Montgomerie pairings

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The Independent Online

Colin Montgomerie played things very much as expected with his pairings for the first official practice session for the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor today.

To nobody's surprise, Ulstermen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy were partners and so were Italians Edoardo and Francesco Molinari, the first brothers to play in the match since 1963.



Behind them Lee Westwood, returning from seven weeks off with a torn calf muscle, was with US PGA champion Martin Kaymer - the two highest ranked player in the European line-up.



They were in a group with Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Peter Hanson, who might well sit out the opening fourballs on Friday and then come in for the afternoon foursomes as Montgomerie plans to get all 12 of his team into action as quickly as he can.



The last group comprised Luke Donald, Ross Fisher, Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter.



They are probably causing the European captain most cause for thought in terms of how to pair them up and who might be benched for one of the sessions.



Poulter and Fisher finished fourth in the World Cup last November - the Molinari brothers won it with McDowell and McIlroy second - while Donald was second at the Tour Championship on Sunday and controversial wild card choice Harrington showed a return to form on the same day with a 64 in Paris.

As for the Americans, Tiger Woods was in the same group as Steve Stricker, with whom he won all four games in last year's Presidents Cup.

But, officially at least, Woods was paired with Hunter Mahan and Stricker with Zach Johnson.



Behind them it was Matt Kuchar with Stewart Cink and Jim Furyk - the new £7million man after beating Donald by a shot on Sunday and in the process the FedEx Cup - with Jeff Overton.



And in the last group Phil Mickelson - or Michelson as it was written on some lists at first - with Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson with Bubba Watson.



That appeared to be the experienced Mickelson, who this week equals the American record by making his eighth appearance, showing three newcomers the ropes.



There was some rain to contend with and some of the hills nearby were shrouded in fog, but the 24 players were able to get on the course on schedule.



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