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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

Wilson unknown to typical American fan

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

LOUISVILLE Oliver Wilson recalled immediately the first time he met Lee Westwood.

I caddied for him at a junior competition, Wilson said. I was 10 at the time, I think, and he was the county captain and I remember him knocking it 30 yards over a par-4 off the tee. I always remember that shot.

Wilson and Westwood come from nearby small English villages Wilson from Mansfield and Westwood from Worksop in a region called the East Midlands.

Eighteen years after that first meeting as player-caddie, they are Ryder Cup teammates.

Sam Torrance, a one-time European captain, once said this is an event where out of the shadows come heroes.

The Euro team often has at least one player who is little known among U.S. fans Phillip Price, Pierre Fulke, Jarmo Sandelin, and Ignacio Garrido to name a few over the past decade and this year s version would be Wilson, who has played in pro tournaments on American soil only five times prior to this week.

Not a lot of people know my name around the world, so this is a good stage to show them what I can do, said Wilson, who has six runner-up finishes on the European Tour since the start of the 2007 season.

Wilson, 28, said he plans on playing in many Ryder Cups, but that his appearance this year is ahead of schedule. He is not a big bomber off the tee, but says his strength is on and around the greens.

FURYK S WIFE HOSPITALIZED: Jim Furyk skipped yesterday morning s final practice round to be with wife Tabitha when she was taken to a hospital with intense back pain.

Azinger said Tabitha Furyk has a bulging disk that has been bothering her for sometime.

THE GREATEST : Muhammad Ali s surprise visit broke up a quiet morning at Valhalla.

His hands trembling from Parkinson s disease, the former heavyweight champ waved to the cheering gallery. Ali got out of the cart to pose with the U.S. team for a photo.

After the final group teed off, the 66-year-old Ali met with the European team.

Some of the Europeans were already on the second hole when the call came in that Ali was on the grounds. They quickly hopped on a golf cart and sped back to the first tee.

The visit choked up Faldo, who declined to talk about it.

Don t start me again, Faldo said.

I m about there with emotions this week, already. I need to get it out somewhere.

Ali was born in Louisville, and both teams toured the Muhammad Ali Center earlier in the week.

CHIP SHOTS: With 11 appearances, 46 matches, 25 points, and 23 matches won, European captain Nick Faldo is the most prolific Ryder Cup player ever. Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins have the most American appearances with eight and Billy Casper s 23 points are the most for a U.S. player. Who is the all-time winningest American? Arnold Palmer went 22-8-2 from 1961-73 J.B. Holmes and Anthony Kim are Ryder Cup rookies, but they are no strangers to match-play competition.

Holmes went 2-1 and Kim 2-1-1 in America s 12 to 11 win over Great Britain-Ireland in the 2005 Walker Cup competition for amateurs ... Kentucky becomes the 16th state to host a Ryder Cup on American soil. Ohio has hosted two Ryder Cups in 1931 at Scioto Country Club in Columbus and in 1987 at Muirfield Village in Dublin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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