Golf

Pair for the dramatic

LOUISVILLE — It is being touted as the most delectable pairing in Kentucky since Colonel Sanders matched his secret recipe with chicken.

We're talking about home-grown golf stars Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes possibly being the leadoff alternate-shot twosome for the United States when the 37th Ryder Cup begins Friday morning at Valhalla.

American captain Paul Azinger has whetted the appetite of the fans by hinting that he'll send Perry and Holmes off first as a way to get the crowd "rocking" and generate momentum as the United States tries to beat Europe for the first time since 1999.

European captain Nick Faldo, however, wonders if Azinger is bluffing.

"I think Paul may be trying to pull a poker move here," Faldo said. "We will see."

Friday's pairings won't be released until Thursday afternoon.

If Perry and Holmes doesn't happen, there are going to be a lot of disappointed fans.

"I'd love to go out there and start it off with a bang," said Holmes, a former University of Kentucky All-American. "That would be awesome."

U.S. team member Stewart Cink is in favor of it.

"If those guys want to play together ... then I don't see why not put them together.

"There's no better set-up than two players that definitely want to be paired. It doesn't always have great results, but it's usually better than not."

Perry, a WKU alumnus, has lobbied Azinger for months not only to make Holmes a wild-card pick, but to let them "lead the charge" when the flag goes up Friday morning on the Ryder Cup.

But Jim Furyk, who played a practice round with Perry and Holmes on Tuesday and saw the crowd's boisterous reaction up close, said performing for the home fans "can be a positive or a negative.

"A lot of times you can ride that momentum and you can feel all that love and rise to the occasion, and it feels great.

"A lot of other times, you put a lot of extra pressure on yourself."

Azinger said he thinks Perry and Holmes can channel their adrenaline and emotion into something good.

"I know J.B. will embrace it and feed off it. I think the trick will be to calm J.B. down," Azinger said.

"And Kenny Perry, I believe he'll embrace it as well.

"In some respects, Kenny might end up being a little more nervous. He's a little older, it's a big stage, but he's also been on this stage before."

European Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood expects Azinger to let the two Kentuckians kick-start the event.

"I wouldn't expect anything less," he said. "You know, it's a match that America wants to see, I suppose, a bit like Phil and Tiger in Detroit.

"It can go one of a couple ways. It can be very successful and get the crowd on your side, or it can go the way it did in Detroit."

Westwood was referring to the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills when U.S. captain Hal Sutton paired Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in the opening four-ball match against Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington.

Mickelson and Woods lost, which quieted the crowd, and the fans never got really revved up again as Europe went on to rout the U.S.

When Mickelson was asked about whether he thought it would be a gamble to let Perry and Holmes bat leadoff, he answered with a knowing smile:

"It could go either way; yeah, I guess so."

  Comments