NEWPORT, Wales – European captain Colin Montgomerie wants this over quickly.
He is going for the early knockout in Monday’s singles finale at the Ryder Cup.
Even with his 9½-6½ lead, Montgomerie is stacking his singles lineup with his best players going out first. He’s leading off with Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter. What about Graeme McDowell? Yeah, the U.S. Open winner is definitely one of Montgomerie’s best players, but he’s saving him for last as his anchor man. It looks like a “just-in-case” decision, just in case the Americans mount a run and Montgomerie needs a good closer.
“It's been noted that we are three points ahead,” Montgomerie said. “And if you notice by the first three names, especially, on the American team sheet, and how strong they are, we had to counteract that with our own strength.
Lee Westwood vs. Steve Stricker
Rory McIlroy vs. Stewart Cink
Luke Donald vs. Jim Furyk
Martin Kaymer vs. Dustin Johnson
Ian Poulter vs. Matt Kuchar
Ross Fisher vs. Jeff Overton
Migeul Angel Jimenez vs. Bubba Watson
Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods
Edoardo Molinari vs. Rickie Fowler
Peter Hanson vs. Phil Mickelson
Padraig Harrington vs. Zach Johnson
Graeme McDowell vs. Hunter Mahan
The four highest ranked European players on this Ryder Cup team are among the first four he’s sending off in singles.
Westwood will lead off against Steve Stricker, McIlroy meets Stewart Cink, Donald draws Jim Furyk and Kaymer gets Dustin Johnson.
“I can only control what I put forward there, and I feel that team lineup has strength everywhere in it,' Montgomerie said. 'I'm very, very happy and delighted that I can put a team sheet out there knowing that I have strength everywhere.”
The Kaymer-Johnson matchup is an intriguing battle of young guns. Notably, Kaymer went on to win the PGA Championship in a playoff after Johnson was penalized for grounding his club in a bunker in a controversial ending at Whistling Straits. Johnson would have faced Kaymer and Bubba Watson in that playoff had Johnson not been penalized.
Also notable in the lineups is that the Americans’ two highest ranked players are deep down in the order, where they'll both meet Ryder Cup rookies. World No. 1 Tiger Woods goes off in the eighth slot against Francesco Molinari, No. 2 Mickelson in the 10th slot against Peter Hanson.
There was much hope that Woods and McIlroy would meet given McIlroy’s comments the past month or so. McIlroy said he wanted to play Woods and that all the European players would “fancy” their chances against Woods, given his current form.
Instead, Woods meets a player who outplayed him in their pairing together at the last major championship. Woods and Molinari were paired together in the third round of the PGA Championship. Molinari shot 1-under-par 71 to Woods’ 72. Woods may not have a great overall Ryder Cup record (12-14-2), but he's 3-1-1 in singles.
Mickelson has lost his last four Ryder Cup singles matches.
Pavin was reminded of Americans captain Ben Crenshaw pointing his finger at reporters in 1999 at The Country Club at Brookline on the eve of the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history. Crensaw famously said he had a feeling about the Americans’ chances.
“Ben's Ben and I'm me,” Pavin said. “ You know, I'm going to put the guys out in the order that I think gives us the best chance to win. They have to go out and perform and play, and if they do, I think we have a chance.”