Kentucky duo better off apart

• Click here for Golfweek’s complete Ryder Cup coverage

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – That ol’ Kentucky twosome of Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes would’ve sent all those Kentuckians surrounding the first tee at 8:05 Friday morning into a real frenzy. They would have forced us to make such references as “Val-hooligans” or “Valhalla-gans,” or something crazy like that.

Fortunately, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger decided we weren’t ready for that just yet. It might be the decision that keeps the Ryder Cup in America, or at least keeps the U.S. in the hunt until Sunday afternoon.

Instead, Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson will lead the Stars and Stripes in the opening foursomes match against Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson. They will be followed by Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan vs. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey; Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter; and Perry and Jim Furyk vs. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Of course, it would have been great fun to open the program with a performance by the Bluegrass Brothers, but the chances were far too great that it would have backfired, sending this 72-hour program into reruns this country is plenty sick of watching.

Azinger actually spent much of the last two days in the Valhalla media center dropping more than a few hints that a Perry-Holmes launch party was in the works.

“I’m leaning that way, yeah,” Azinger said Wednesday after his daily press conference. “And if I do that, they will definitely go out first.”

This would also be a good time to point out, however, that Captain America also added, with a smirk, “I can lie. I don’t have to tell the press the truth.”

Europe’s clever captain Nick Faldo apparently knows a bluff when he sees one, considering he said “I think Paul is trying to pull a poker move here,” when asked Wednesday about the Holmes-Perry situation.

“So we will see,” Faldo said.

For much of Thursday leading up to the opening ceremonies, all signs seemed to point to the big Kentucky Kickoff. The rumor was everywhere, except, of course, on the official pairing sheets that were eventually handed out to the media.

When asked later why he decided against the Red, White and Bluegrass, Azinger didn’t really give a specific answer, typical of Ryder Cup strategists.

“Well, you know, I think Kenny and J.B. together is a fantastic idea,” Azinger said. “My intention is to get 12 players out the first day, and I’m going to stick with that. And just the way that I decided to do it was for alternate-shot to put Kenny Perry with Jim Furyk.”

Kenny and J.B. is only a fantastic idea if it works. Hal Sutton would have had a wing named after him at PGA of America headquarters by now if his idea to pair up Tiger Woods and Mickelson on opening day at Oakland Hills in 2004 had worked. But it didn’t, and may have actually set the tone for the remainder of that miserable weekend.

This is what would have been, had Azinger been telling the truth: J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry vs. Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson.

The sound of it sends chills down my spine, but in a way different than Perry and Holmes would feel as they walked onto that first tee Friday morning, amid cheers as loud as Holmes is long.

That’s tightrope stuff, there. For Perry, because he’s said time and again how this week is probably the most important of his life. For Holmes, because he’s a rookie, and has shown nerves before on the first tee, specifically to begin the fourth round of the last PGA Championship. He’s also 198th (out 203 players) on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, which isn’t necessarilly the biggest plus when it comes to the alternate-shot format.

Azinger was smart to keep the dice in his hand. There are other ways to win Ryder Cups. There are other ways to build momentum, without risking a complete destruction of it.

You know what they say. You can’t win a Ryder Cup on Friday morning, but you can sure lose one. (Or do they?)

Sending Mickelson out in the first group of the day could be considered a small risk in itself, considering Lefty’s record in Ryder Cups past. But at the same time Azinger, in effect, is handing Mickelson the reins.

“As far as anything that’s happened in the past, I can’t emphasize enough that if you dwell on the past, especially in this game, you’re not going to be very successful,” said Azinger. “So what happened two years ago and four years ago is something that happened.”

Doesn’t mean he has to do anything crazy.

Show Hide