Highlights from Ryder Cup opening ceremony

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NEWPORT, Wales – The first bogey of the 2010 Ryder Cup was committed in a most glaring fashion – and not by a player, but a captain.

Introducing his team, U.S. captain Corey Pavin went down the line and after he got to Rickie Fowler he saluted “the complete” American team.

The only problem is, Pavin had somehow forgotten to introduce a guy who was 11th in the row, one who is playing on his fifth Ryder Cup team – Stewart Cink. As Pavin spoke, the crowd hooted and hollered and Fowler reached over to pat Cink on the back. Laughing, Cink remained in his seat, but bent over. When he finally noticed his error, Pavin looked stunned and told the crowd the give “a special, a very special round of applause for Stewart Cink.”

Pavin then started at the far end of the line and individually shook hands with every member of the team. When he got to the last one, Phil Mickelson shook hands and said, “Well done, captain.”

Except for what is the equivalent of a three-putt from 6 feet, that is, which Pavin alluded to later. “I only screwed up once,” he said. “I only missed one player. It could have been two.”

Said European captain Colin Montgomerie, “He did very, very good in covering his tracks. But yes, we’re 1 up.”

Pavin’s miscue was perhaps the highlight of the opening ceremonies – although opera singer Katherine Jenkins of Wales was outstanding – but there were others. Just a sampling:

Butch Harmon and Mark Roe preceded the opening ceremonies on Sky TV by predicting the pairings. Each could be considered as having “inside” knowledge of the teams – Harmon, after all, serves as swing coach for three Americans, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Stewart Cink – and Roe is a longtime member of the European Tour. Give Roe high marks for being correct on all four European pairings, while Harmon hit three-of-four. The one Harmon missed out on (Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton) can be excused, however, because it stunned everyone. The conventional thinking was Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan would be the fourth American team, but Pavin is rolling the dice with two Ryder Cup rookies who would be considered birdie machines.

• “Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald would not have expected to play two rookies in the last match,” Montgomerie said, conceding he was surprised to see Watson and Overton instead of Furyk and Mahan.

Asked why Furyk wasn’t in the four-ball lineup, especially given his dramatic win in the Tour Championship last Sunday, a triumph that sealed the FedEx Cup title, Pavin tried a little humor. “He said he was tired. He’s been counting the money and is very tired from doing so,” Pavin said. Then he got serious and said, “You’ll see him out in the afternoon (foursomes).”

• Montgomerie said what prompted him to put Lee Westwood in the first match, paired with Martin Kaymer against Mickelson and Johnson, was simple. He thinks Westwood deserves to hit the first shot for Europe. (Mickelson and Johnson have the honors, however, and will hit the first two shots of the competition.)

• The tabloids over here did not get their wish – at least not right out of the gates. That’s because Woods will play, but not against Rory McIlroy. Instead, Woods and Steve Stricker will take on Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher in the third slot.

When asked by Master of Ceremonies Di Stewart why Woods and Stricker were third in the Americans’ lineup, he laughed. “The first two slots are filled already.” Even Stewart had to acknowledge that “it was a very good answer.”

• Reporters grilling Pavin as to why Woods wasn’t out in the very first group should study up a bit. Yes, he’s been in that No. 1 pairing each of the last three years, but guess what? Mickelson has been in the first pairing three times in the last five Ryder Cups, too. (In 2004 they were paired together to start the competition.)

Pavin, however, did not get any favors from Montgomerie, because the European captain suggested his American counterpart had “hid” Woods and was surprised the world’s No. 1 wasn’t going first.

• Woods looked pleasantly surprised to receive the loudest and warmest ovation for any American player.

• McIlroy usually takes center stage when hats are removed and the locks are allowed to flow. But the young man from Northern Ireland had to take a back seat to Miguel Angel Jimenez as the Spaniard untied the ponytail and let the hair hang down. Brilliant, as they like to say over here.

• The captains will employ a total of seven Ryder Cup rookies in their morning lineup – Ross Fisher, Kaymer, and McIlroy for Europe; Johnson, Watson, Overton, and Matt Kuchar for the Americans.

Amy Mickelson was in the procession of American wives and partners, a sight that had to offer inspiration for both sides of this competition. Hugely popular, Amy has been battling breast cancer since it was detected in May of 2009. Once a fixture at nearly every tournament in which her husband played, Amy has made very few public appearances since then, though she was there at Augusta National April 11 of this year when Phil sealed his third green jacket.

• The mood was more somber regarding another who is battling cancer, Seve Ballesteros. An icon who virtually single-handedly turned the Ryder Cup into the world showcase it now is, Ballesteros is at home in Spain, gravely ill, but his spirit will never be forgotten by the Europeans. A rousing ovation was given when Stewart mentioned Ballesteros and asked the crowd to offer their best wishes.

• The 38th Ryder Cup Matches were made official not by the opening ceremonies, but by the reported sighting of Michael Jordan at a local restaurant Wednesday evening.

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