By Ann Liguori
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Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson will start things off for the American team when Ryder Cup play begins Friday morning at 7.45 Wales time. There are eight matches on Friday, eight more on Saturday, four fourball (best ball) and four foursome matches (alternate shots) and then twelve singles matches on Sunday.

Stewart Cink and smiling Matt Kuchar will be paired together in the second match and they will play the Northern Irish duel of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Tiger Woods will team with Steve Stricker against Englishmen Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher. Woods and Stricker were the first partners to go 4-0 at the Presidents Cup last year so the fact that they are paired together is no surprise.

And American rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton will take on England’s Luke Donald and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington. US Team Captain Corey Pavin must want to save Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan for the afternoon session, as they are sitting out the morning session, as are Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari will also sit out the morning session, as will Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Peter Hanson of Sweden.

The United States needs 14 points to retain the Cup it won in 2008; Europe needs 14 ½ points to win the Cup.

British tabloids played up the fact that Pavin asked Major Dan Rooney, a fighter pilot who is now with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, to speak to the American team. European Team captain Colin Montgomerie teared up when he spoke about the emotional speech Seve Ballesteros shared with his team. Seve is suffering with brain cancer. A columnist for the Daily Mail criticized Pavin for ‘blurring the lines’ between war and the Ryder Cup golf competition with his choice of Rooney to inspire the American team. The columnist wrote: “Uncomfortable echoes of the war on the shore at Kiawah Island in 1991 rumbled through Celtic Manor yesterday. Is crazy Pavin up to his old tricks again?” The writer went on to point out that at the Ryder Cup on Kiawah Island in 1991, which took place just after Operation Desert Storm, Pavin wore his hair long and dressed in a flak jacket at one point. Pavin justified his choice by saying that he “wants these guys to be accountable to each other and have each other’s backs and basically that’s what happens in the military…” But the tabloids have over analyzed this. Rooney is an excellent speaker. I have heard him talk on several occasions and he is an extremely gifted and skilled motivational and inspirational speaker with an excellent track record and many diverse experiences to draw from. I’m sure if anyone can inspire, Rooney can.

Great choice Corey!

One of the reasons the Europeans have to be favored this weekend, other than being more accustomed to the rainy, soggy and windy conditions on the course, is they really have a lot of fun as a team, enjoy camaraderie, which helps keep them calm. Graeme McDowell brought in wigs resembling Rory McIlroy’s curly hair for the guys to wear yesterday. They were cutting up and having a great time while many of the Americans are very serious and don’t quite look like they are having as much fun. Tiger barely cracks a smile. But Bubba makes up for him and so does Matt Kuchar who smiles all the time. Of course, it will all come down to who can execute their shots better but it is helpful to stay loose, control the nerves and have fun, despite the enormous pressure that accompanies any Ryder Cup competition.

Had a chance to play an excellent links course today – Royal Porthcawl Golf Club. It was a gorgeous sunny day, no wind. And I won the women’s long drive competition to boot! It was a lot of fun playing with a former professional rugby player from Cardiff who can’t walk the streets without being recognized. His golf got better as the day went on. I enjoyed learning about how popular rugby is over here. The Millennium Stadium, which hosted the gala dinner and show last evening, is primarily used for rugby. It has a retractable roof. It would be a perfect stadium and a wonderful town to host an NFL game. I know they always take the game to Wembley but the NFL should check out Cardiff, Wales. It would make for a terrific venue!