BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton's selection of his "A-Team" consisting of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is most revealing about Sutton's mind-set entering the showdown for world golf supremacy.
"I don't know that we could pair two guys together that were more matched for one another than those two guys," Sutton said yesterday after the Ryder Cup pairings were announced.
The bonding of golf's ultimate power couple is almost a bigger story than the Ryder Cup itself.
Sutton joined Woods and Mickelson for good reason.
Woods and Mickelson were chosen for their star power. Pound for pound, they're two of the best golfers in the world.
Woods and Mickelson said all the right things yesterday. They stressed the need for teamwork and talked up each other's game.
"I love the pairing of Tiger and myself," said Mickelson, who practiced yesterday with the Nike One ball that Woods uses. "It's been put up to us to get the U.S. off to a good start."
"We're totally excited about it," Woods said. "Can't wait to get out there and play."
When you look at Sutton's selection of Woods and Mickelson, you realize Sutton believes he's giving the U.S. the best chance of winning.
The plan is for Woods and Mickelson to set a tempo for their teammates to follow.
"I told these two guys that I felt like the perception of the world was that the U.S. team didn't bond and we didn't come together as a team," Sutton said.
"I said, 'I can't think of any other message that we could send any louder than to put you guys out first.'●"
Sutton seemed uninterested that Woods and Mickelson had never been paired together in the Ryder Cup. Or, for that matter, Woods and Mickelson not being close friends.
"I'm either going to get criticized or praised over this," Sutton said. "But my pairing is down. I'm proud of it."
Sutton is a firm believer that the team with the most talent usually wins. There is little doubt that Woods and Mickelson have the necessary talent to overcome any differences that may exist between them.
"You know, I wasn't really concerned if they were bosom buddies," Sutton said. "They know what the job is and they are going to get it done."
How accurately Sutton is able to evaluate talent as well as juggle the various personalities on his team will help determine the Americans' fate this weekend.
When asked if he considered reuniting Mickelson and David Toms, who were partnered at the 2002 Ryder Cup, Sutton replied, "Never did cross my mind. I wanted to send a different message here."
But, what if?
What if Sutton trots out his best two golfers, and they lose?
Woods, despite his phenomenal success, has been mediocre in Ryder Cup play. And it has yet to be determined how breaking in a new line of golf clubs will affect Mickelson's performance.
"We can win that game," said Colin Montgomerie. "And if we do win, it will have a dramatic effect on the day. It would be huge for the European team and everybody here to see that we can cope with their top two."
How would the U.S. cope with a loss of that magnitude?
"I can't imagine anything that would aggravate those two guys more than to get beat," Sutton said of Woods and Mickelson.
Montgomerie and the Europeans are confident. Woods and Mickelson better bring their "A" games.
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