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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 19:33 UK

Faldo opts for trios in practice

Venue: Valhalla, Kentucky Date: 19-21 September Live TV coverage: Sky Sports Live radio coverage: BBC 5 Live Updates/commentary: Red Button and BBC Sport website Daily highlights: BBC TV/website
Padraig Harrington, Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood
Faldo keeps the mood light-hearted at the official opening day photo session

European captain Nick Faldo kept his plans under wraps by sending players out in threes on the opening morning of practice for the Ryder Cup at Valhalla.

Faldo and assistant Jose Maria Olazabal gave a team talk, before Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Soren Hansen teed off.

Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell were the next three out, followed by Robert Karlsson with wildcards Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.

England's Justin Rose and Oliver Wilson joined Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The course was in good condition after an extensive clean-up operation following the damage caused by remnants of Hurricane Ike.

Explaining the decision to play in threes Faldo said: "Four is a crowd when you are chipping around the green, balls are flying everywhere. We decided collectively to look at the golf course, to test the sand and the greens."

When you see Sergio, you see Seve

Nick Faldo on Garcia
Before they headed out to practice, Faldo gathered his 12 players, Olazabal and a few of the caddies on the first tee.

"It was my idea. Familiarity, really," he explained. "Friday morning is different, it's another different emotion.

"I was very big on visualisation. You can visualise that first tee shot and off you go.

"It was a good moment. It was great that Sergio (Garcia) joined in, Lee Westwood joined in, Padraig (Harrington) as well.

"We talked and we had a chat. Everybody shared a few little thoughts and it went a lot further than I expected.

"I'm delighted the guys took it more than two steps further. That was really productive. The team are really tight together - it's great."

RYDER CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's Rob Hodgetts
Westwood (25 Ryder Cup matches), Garcia (20) and Harrington (17) are by far the most experienced players on the European team.

And Faldo is relishing the prospect of Spaniard Garcia, who has won 14 and halved two of his 20 matches, once again providing an inspirational lead.

"Sergio brings a lot of passion to this team," Faldo noted. "When you see Sergio, you see Seve (Ballesteros). They both love this event. Matchplay is different and he gets fired up for it. He is a key member of this team."

Faldo believes Garcia, who won the Players Championship - known as the 'fifth major' - and was runner-up to Harrington at the USPGA Championship this year, is benefiting from a change of approach.

It's great that the week is here now

Justin Rose
"Sergio has really changed this year," Faldo added. "He has matured at the speed of light. He is a different guy, he has so much more patience now.

"I believe he has recognised the more patient he stays the better his performances."

The American team teed off from the 10th hole on Tuesday and their captain Paul Azinger stuck to the more traditional pairings.

RYDER CUP BLOG
BBC Sport's Iain Carter on the opening day at the Ryder Cup
Kentucky duo Kenny Perry and JB Holmes were put together, playing with Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley.

Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard played alongside newcomers Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan, while Chad Campbell and Stewart Cink joined two more of the six new caps, Steve Stricker and Ben Curtis.

Azinger revealed that he may decide to place two rookies in the same partnership.

"I wouldn't have any trouble putting rookie and rookie together," he said.

"Sometimes I think it's more difficult to go out with an experienced player. I think sometimes the rookie feels like he has something to prove to that guy. I don't want anybody to feel that way."

One of the partnerships may be the two locals, Perry and Holmes.

The latter made the 330-yard carry on to the 352-yard par-four 13th on the first day of practice and his captain said: "You know, I'd like to put them off first match out to be honest and get this crowd rocking."

On Monday evening, Azinger took his players to the nearby Muhmmad Ali museum, where they watched a video about the legendary Louisville boxer's life.

The youngest member of the team, 23-year-old Kim, said: "He wasn't part of my generation, but it was inspirational.

"I took a lot away from it and I'm going to use some of it this week."


Ryder Cup practice groups - Tuesday

Europe
Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Soren Hansen
Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell
Robert Karlsson, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter
Justin Rose, Oliver Wilson, Miguel Angel Jimenez

United States
Kenny Perry/JB Holmes & Jim Furyk/Boo Weekley
Phil Mickelson/Justin Leonard & Anthony Kim/Hunter Mahan
Chad Campbell/Stewart Cink & Steve Stricker/Ben Curtis


see also
Ryder Cup practice photos
16 Sep 08 |  Golf
Ryder Cup explained
16 Sep 08 |  Golf


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